Preparing to Work with Trusts and Estates Attorneys

A trusts & estates (T&E) attorney is an important individual to have on your team of professionals, especially:

  • when preparing and/or updating legal documents, such as a will, power of attorney, and healthcare proxy; or
  • if you are acting as an executor for an estate.

Legal Documents:

Working with a T&E attorney is an opportunity to plan for the future—financially and legally—at a time when matters are not pressing. Collaborating with your attorney and financial advisor will help you create a more secure future for yourself and your beneficiaries. 

When meeting with a T&E attorney, it is important to come prepared, so the time is used to focus on your situation, your needs, and your questions. Some attorneys may ask you to fill out a questionnaire and/or send documents associated with your case ahead of the meeting. If yours doesn't, you can take the initiative to do so in advance.

Whether writing your first will or updating it, gather as much of the pertinent information as possible to ensure that your will covers all aspects of your estate (see our tipsheet here). Also, don't forget your digital estate

Similarly, making sure that your other important documents are up-to-date requires forethought. For your power of attorney, identifying the most trustworthy and responsible person you know is a priority; and it’s best if they are also good with details and finances. It is also crucial to consider someone who would be a good choice as a backup if, for some reason, your designee is unavailable. When deciding on the nature of your power of attorney, be sure to consider what powers they might need should your circumstances change.

For your health care proxy, pick the person who would best understand your wishes, can communicate well with medical professionals, and would be a strong advocate in the event you cannot advocate for yourself. Be sure to choose a second person as back up.

For more information on health care proxies and the different types of power of attorney, see our previous blog here

Acting As Executor of an Estate:

If you are designated, you are responsible for making sure the wishes of the deceased—as expressed in the will—are carried out in accordance with the law.

Depending on your time and attention-to-detail, you can choose to do as much or as little of the work as you wish, but having an attorney to guide you and step in as needed is always a good idea, no matter the size of the estate. If dealing with a small or more straightforward estate, with no debts and bequests, you may be able to do the work yourself. If an estate is more complicated, is large enough to require estate tax filings, or may be contested, you would do well to have an attorney take the lead. 

It is up to you whether or not to work with the attorney who drafted the will, but you may choose to do so if he/she knew the deceased’s wishes and affairs well (see our tipsheet here). 

Besides working with the attorney, you may find it beneficial to hire a daily money manager (DMM). As specialists in financial administration and document organization, they can help collect and prepare materials for legal documents or manage the day-to-day affairs of the estate.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at Eddy & Schein in New York at 212-987-1427 or in Los Angeles at 626-395-7572.

Rebecca Schein Gideon Y. Schein,
Rebecca R. Eddy
Gideon Y. Schein

Eddy & Schein
212. 987.1427


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