Individuals seeking guidance for their tax concerns and estate planning goals frequently seek the advice of an attorney or CPA who is familiar with these topics and who have helped others facing similar situations. Truth be told, many people find discussions of taxes and end of life planning to be somewhat difficult to broach. Therefore, these individuals may delay their search for a trusted representative who can work to ensure their tax compliance or begin to arrange one’s will, trusts, and other aspects of one’s estate plan.
However, the IRS will not wait around for a taxpayer to get his or her tax obligations and offshore reporting duties in order before launching an audit or other tax enforcement action. Likewise, the inexorable march of time will not wait for a taxpayer to finally become comfortable with seeking a trusted representative to arrange his or her estate. The failure to address either of these concerns in a timely manner can result in significant complications. The following is a brief guide as to some of the questions a potential client should ask any prospective tax or estate planning attorney prior to making a decision.
Do I Need a Tax and Estate Planning Lawyer?
Only you can assess your needs and concerns, but many attorneys offer free consultations so if you are experiencing some degree of anxiety of a particular issue, it can pay to address it with an experienced lawyer. At least for estate planning matters, almost any adult can benefit from period planning. It is essential to remember that if you pass away without a will or estate plan your belongings will be distributed according to state intestacy (individuals who die without a will) law. This law is unlikely to satisfy your particular goals and wishes regarding the disposition of your property when you are gone, so all adults should engage in routine estate planning.
As for needing a tax attorney, this determination is more difficult. Some people with relatively straight-forward taxes decide to use a tax attorney because they seek the piece of mind a professional can bring. Other people with complex financial arrangements, multiple sources or income, and investments may come to rely on a tax lawyer simply due to the burdens of compliance. However, most individuals holding foreign accounts should immediately contact an experienced tax lawyer who handles FBAR and FATCA disclosures due to the emphasis being placed on undisclosed foreign accounts.
In any case, deciding that you need an attorney is a personal one.
Are There Certain Questions I Should Ask Before Hiring an Attorney and Forming an Attorney-Client Relationship?
With any legal concern you have, your questions should be tailored to the matter at hand. For instance, if you are concerned about unfiled taxes, you should ask a potential attorney something along the lines of, “Have you assisted other clients with tax non-filing?” If you have concerns regarding an estate planning matter, a question regarding the potential attorney’s experience with estates of a similar value and with similar goals should be an area of inquiry. In short, a person seeking legal help should spend a significant amount of time drafting questions about the lawyer’s experience, approach, and strategy in the context of legal matters similar to yours.
Other concerns are more general in nature and can give you a good idea about whether you can work with the lawyer. Questions you ask may include:
- How many years have you practiced law?
- Have you received any awards? Any accolades for client service?
- How do you approach estate planning matters and what is expected from me?
- What is your preferred method of communication? Can I call, e-mail, or text you?
- Whom will I speak to if I call the law office? A secretary? Will I have a direct line to my attorney?
- Who will handle my matter? Will the principle attorney handle my concerns? Will the matter be outsourced or given to a junior associate?
These are just a few areas of general inquiry that individuals seeking a tax or estate planning lawyer should address. Undoubtedly, you have your own questions and concerns. When interviewing your potential attorney, be sure to ask questions that are likely to zero-in on whether you are likely to be able to work closely and effectively as a team.
Seeking an Experienced Tax & Estate Planning Lawyer?
If you have landed on this page, you’ve probably already begun your research into locating a tax or estate planning lawyer by Googling. You can also reach out to local bar associations for a list of attorneys practicing in the area of law you are concerned about near your town or city. Relevant associations include:
- State Bar of California, Taxation Section
- State Bar of California, Trusts & Estates Section
- Los Angeles County Bar Association, Tax Section
- South Bay Bar Association
- Beverly Hills Bar Association
Mr. Hoffman is a member of each of these bas associations and these associations can also provide the names of many other local tax attorneys. These are great first steps, but you should strive to meet face-to face with a lawyer, or at minimum conduct a phone interview, prior to making any commitments or signing any documents.
At the Hoffman Law Offices, tax attorney Robert Hoffman works closely with individuals, families, business owners and employers to address an array of estate planning and tax law needs. To schedule a free initial consultation to determine whether the services of the Hoffman Law Offices are a good match for your needs and preferences, call 800-897-3915 today.