Losing a loved one is an emotional and life-changing experience. You might be tasked with…
I once discussed helping clients open up about sensitive family dynamics and personal finances with another estate planning attorney. He said, “What’s the problem? Everything’s confidential.”
He was both right – and wrong. A client’s communications with his or her attorney are privileged and confidential. But if we want clients to feel comfortable enough to share personal information, attorney-client privilege is not enough. Estate planning lawyers and probate lawyers also need to develop and demonstrate empathy.
Empathy for lawyers requires a delicate balance. We must understand and care about our clients’ feelings and experiences. At the same time, we must remain objective to provide the best counsel to our clients.
Find an Empathetic and Objective Partner
Those who are in the process of making their own estate plans may have anxieties or worries about their family and finances. For executors, the primary feelings are probably more connected to the grief of having lost a loved one. Either way, it is important at this time to know that you have an empathetic lawyer who also brings an objective and expert perspective to the situation.
It is also important that you partner with a lawyer who can recognize and support you through the challenging feelings you may have during the process. That’s why, when you are in the process of choosing an estate attorney, their ability to demonstrate empathy and genuine care for their clients is just as important as the qualifications and experience they have in the field.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a New York Estate Attorney
When you choose an estate attorney, it is vital that you feel that you are working with someone you feel compatible and comfortable with. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:
- Does the attorney’s way of communicating work for you?
- Do they seem accommodating and flexible in ways that your situation will require?
- Are you comfortable in their presence?
- Do they seem genuinely interested and engaged when you speak with them?
- Are they open to discussing options to keep the process within your budget?
It is also important to remember to have compassion for yourself. Emotions may sometimes take you by surprise, often at what can feel like inopportune times. Having an estate attorney by your side who brings a sense of empathy, care, and compassion to the process can make all the difference in the world.
Questions Your Estate Attorney Should Make You Comfortable Enough to Answer
By now, you may be wondering exactly what information you’ll need to provide to your estate attorney. Let’s use the following example:
Anne and Steve, a young couple with a toddler named Ella, are meeting with an estate planning attorney to draw up their wills.
After their attorney explains what a will does and how it works, and answers any questions Anne and Steve have about the process, the attorney may ask questions like:
- What are your professions and other sources of income?
- Can you share a list of your assets?
- Do you have any debts?
- Do you have life insurance policies, and who is named as beneficiaries?
- Does Ella have any special needs?
- Is Ella receiving any government benefits?
- Who would you want to care for Ella as her guardian if you couldn’t?
- Is that guardian also the best person to manage assets you would leave to her?
- Did you sign a prenup and may I review it?
- Were either of you previously married?
- Do you expect anyone in your family to contest the wills?
- Do you expect to inherit money from your parents or other relatives?
- What else do you think is important for me to know?
If Anne and Steve are working with an empathetic attorney, hopefully they will feel comfortable sharing the information needed for the wills to carry out their wishes.
Whatever stage you are at in the process, from estate planning to probate, the Law & Mediation Office of Bracha Etengoff is here to offer guidance and support.
Call us today for your consultation at (347) 640-0993. We can meet with you by video or at a location most convenient for you, whether it’s our Manhattan or Long Island office, or your home or office.