Evaluating the Special Needs Estate Planning Attorney
Consider the attorney’s:
Education, Certifications and Memberships e.g. Special Needs Alliance (SNA); National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA); American College of Trust & Estate Counsel (ACTEC); American Bar Association (ABA); and State Bar Associations
Time/experience in trust, estate, and disability practice
Articles written (commitment to educating the consumer evident?)
Presentations made (especially to peers)
Educational programs recently attended with respect to trust and estate law and disability issues.
Is the attorney experienced in drafting Special Needs Trusts? Has he/she made it an area of focus in his/her practice?
Can he/she provide references, other professionals who would recommend his/her expertise in Special Needs Estate Planning?
What is the attorney’s commitment to completing a comprehensive assessment of your family’s unique "special needs," concerns and goals for your loved one with a disability?
Is the attorney up to date on any state-specific special rules the SSA (Social Security Administration, Medicaid, or the Department of Mental Health might have for key aspects of Special Needs Trusts? (Distribution terms, required accounting, reports, notices, remainder beneficiary etc.)
In the initial consultation, do you get an overall sense of the attorney’s understanding of and empathy for the unique challenges families face in caring for a loved one who is disabled?
Does an attorney’s high ratings in the qualifications listed above guarantee you a high quality SNT guide? Not necessarily
Do your research - find the best attorney you can and remember you are your loved one's most committed advocate. Keep informed and active throughout the process.
See NAMI Legal Center for possible referral to an attorney in your area.
Continue to Selecting a Trustee
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Good Articles on needed professionalism
Lee Holmes, is one of the founders of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Lee practices in Oklahoma.
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The above information is provided to educate in a general way and is not intended to provide specific legal or professional advice.