Attorney and Counselor at Law
There are many estate planning and probate law firms and lawyers; how do we choose?
Estate planning, or managing an estate after someone close to you has died, can be stressful. It is important to select an attorney with whom you feel comfortable sharing personal information and discussing options. Here are some other factors to consider:
- Does the attorney work primarily in this area of law? Estate planning and administration involve many specialized legal considerations, and to provide the best service, it is important that your attorney has the time and resources to keep up-to-date with the constant changes in these fields of law. This can be difficult for an attorney who must also follow developments in criminal law, personal injury litigation, and other areas.
- Will the attorney take the time to understand and respond to your concerns specifically? If an attorney is too quick to make recommendations, without taking the time to understand the details of your situation, it may be a sign that the firm takes a "one size fits all" approach to estate planning. You may be better served by someone who will take the time to gather relevant information, perform a careful analysis, and consider all options, before making suggestions.
- Does the attorney have solid research and writing skills? No attorney, even a specialist, can be expected to know the answer to every legal question that might arise when handling a case. Consequently, a good attorney should be willing and able to conduct thorough and efficient research when necessary. And, if an attorney's written communications are filled with typographical and grammatical errors, consider whether he or she will display the same level of carelessness when dealing with the substantive aspects of your case.
- Are appointments available at a time and place that are convenient for you? Consider the location of the attorney's office, and find out whether evening or weekend appointments, or house calls, are available if your work schedule or physical limitations require such arrangements.
- Are you comfortable with the ways in which the firm uses technology? Will your preferences regarding communication be accommodated? Do you feel that the firm uses technology appropriately to render more efficient service, when it can be done without sacrificing quality or confidentiality?
- Will your telephone calls and inquiries be answered promptly, by a qualified attorney? When you have a question or concern, you should be able to speak to someone with the qualifications necessary to address the issue, in a timely manner. If your attorney is frequently out of the office (in court, attending meetings or depositions, or on inter-island travel), how and when will your calls or e-mails be returned?
- What are the firm's policies regarding fees and payment? If all billing is hourly, how will you know what the total cost is likely to be? Do you know what additional charges will be billed in addition to the attorney's time? How are the services of support staff billed? Is a large retainer required before any work is begun?
Kauai Estate Law, LLLC is a single-member Limited Liability Law Company, owned and managed by attorney Cynthia Hannah-White. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Hawaii and New York, and is a member of the Kauai Bar Association, and the Probate and Estate Planning section of the Hawaii State Bar Association.
Cynthia graduated from Cornell Law School, magna cum laude, in 1992. She was a court attorney and confidential legal assistant to two highly respected New York State justices for 16 years. In these positions Cynthia gained a strong knowledge of courtroom procedure and litigation strategy and tactics, and honed her legal research and writing skills. She was sought out as an expert in these areas by many attorneys in the upstate New York area, before she relocated to Hawaii in 2008.
Cynthia received the American Jurisprudence award for outstanding performance in an Estate Planning practicum, and focused her legal studies in the areas of taxation and business law. After law school, she engaged in a rigorous program of continuing legal education in the areas of estate planning, probate law and taxation. By focusing on these areas of the law, Cynthia is able to stay abreast of the complex and constantly changing laws and rulings that govern the administration and taxation of trusts and estates.
Photographs on this page courtesy of S. Stockley (l) and David B. Lat (r).