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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Additional questions to ask a civil trial attorney...
What is the contingency fee?
Will I be responsible for any advanced case costs?
Who actually will be working on my case?
Should I have a question, who will be answering my calls?
Will you consult with me before making a demand for money on my case?
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 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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