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Some Good Interview Questions to Ask When Selecting an Attorney to Establish a Trust

published June 16, 2014

By Follow Me on
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( 211 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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We asked attorneys in the U.S. what are good interview questions to ask when selecting an attorney in order to establish a trust? Although Americans are encouraged to establish a trust, many don't have a trust or wait until they are much older before they ask an attorney about creating a trust. Below are opinions of six attorneys who gave useful advice regarding asking questions before selecting an attorney to construct a trust. We hope you find their responses helpful.

The prospective attorney should be asked approximately how many times he has handled a similar matter and when was the last time that he or she has done so.

-Rodney R. Sweetland III
Duane Morris
  1. Ask the attorney about his or her experience in handling cases similar to yours.
  2. Ask the attorney to outline the process of your case and the legal rights of each party.
  3. Explain your objectives to the attorney and ask him or her if they are reasonable and can be achieved.
  4. Ask about what actions you will be notified about before they are taken by the lawyer.
  5. Ask the attorney about the costs and the required retainer.
  6. Ask the attorney if he or she will accept the case.
Jonathan Marks
The Marks Family Law Firm
  • How long have you been practicing as an attorney?
  • What are the possible outcomes of my case?
  • What are alternative options for my case?
  • Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
  • How often will I get updates from you about my case?
  • What kind of approach will you take - aggressive or settle?
  • Who else in the law firm will work on my case?
- John M. O'Brien
The Law Offices of John M. O'Brien & Associates, P.C.

I think the most important thing to do is evaluate the lawyer's experience with trusts and estate matters. How long has the attorney been practicing law and what percentage of his or her practice is devoted to estate planning and estate administration? Does the lawyer have an LLM or other advanced degree related to tax and/or estate planning? Is the lawyer certified by the state bar as a specialist in estate planning and probate? Does the lawyer routinely attend CLEs on advanced estate planning issues? The answers to these questions will help the prospective client evaluate whether the lawyer has the depth of experience necessary to competently represent the client on estate planning matters.

-Louis E. Wooten
The Wooten Law Firm

Below are some general questions you should ask an attorney, some of which apply to finding an attorney to help establish a trust.
  1. What is your fee? How do you compute it? Do I owe fees even if I lose?
  2. What makes you an expert?
  3. Have you practiced this same area of the law for a long time Are you a specialist?
  4. Will I be able to speak to you if I have a question, or am I going to be put into voicemail and rarely responded to?
  5. Will you explain things to me in a way that I can understand?
  6. Am I just a number, or am I a case that really matters to you What kind of volume do you have?
  7. Do you consider this a 'family practice' or a 'factory practice,' in that do you care about each client, or is each client just part of your volume business?
  8. Will you be honest with me about our chances to win?
-Barry Goodman of Goodman Acker
  1. What is the lawyers credentials in the legal community? In a civil trial, the reputation and skill of opposing counsel can be just as important to the outcome of the case as the details of the case. For example, if the attorney representing you has demonstrated his competence and skill advocating for the rights of his/her clients, opposing counsel is less likely to dismiss the merits of your case.
  2. Is he or she a Board Certified Attorney? Board Certification means an attorney has substantial, relevant experience in a select field of law as well as demonstrated, and tested special competence in that area of law. Fewer than 4% of all US attorneys are Board Certified by an ABA accredited or state sponsored certification board.
  3. What is his or her history in handling such cases? Ask for specific examples of cases similar to yours and the outcome of each case handled by the attorney. Past performance may not guarantee future outcome, but it can be indicative of probable outcome.
  4. Will he bring the case to trial if need be? Your attorney's ability to negotiate a better settlement for you can be linked to his/her ability to take a case to trial and win.

  5. Additional questions to ask a civil trial attorney...

  12. What is the contingency fee?
  13. Will I be responsible for any advanced case costs?
  14. Who actually will be working on my case?
  15. Should I have a question, who will be answering my calls?
  16. Will you consult with me before making a demand for money on my case?
  17. When will my lawsuit be filed and where will it be filed?
These are the top 10 questions - not necessarily in this order.

-Michael Maggiano

Michael Maggiano is a founder and senior partner of Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, Trial Attorneys. For over 35 years he has specialized in personal injury litigation. Mr. Maggiano is a Certified Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey and the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and an Advocate Member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He is a Past President of the New Jersey Association for Justice and the Melvin M. Belli Society which is a highly select society of trial lawyers and barristers with notable members throughout the world. He is nationally recognized lecturer and a highly sought after speaker to bar groups on legal topics, including the intricacies of legal techniques and strategies. He has appeared both on local and national television on various topics in the law. His cases and trials have been reported both in the general media and legal reporting journals. Mr. Maggiano has had dozens of his articles about winning for the injured published in leading legal journals.

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published June 16, 2014

By Follow Me on
( 211 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.