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How to find a good trust attorney ?
Old 10-31-2016, 11:10 PM   #1
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How to find a good trust attorney ?

I'm in need to revise my family trust and the original attorney who drafted it retired.

So the dilemma is - how to find a new one.
I have a benefit at work that would pay for it, but still the question remains.

I live in SF.

Any tips or better yet recommendations ?

Thx
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Old 11-01-2016, 05:20 AM   #2
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I thought I was safe, going with a friends recommendation, NOT! We started setting up the trust 4 months ago and still having problems. My husband is sick and wants to go with this friends lawyer. He talks to us like we don't know anything. His secretary is a pain in the butt. I think she thinks because she works for an attorney she knows all the answers. When I call with a problem she never gives me a chance to explain what the whole issue is before she starts talking and you can't butt in. The paperwork I had to mail out had mistakes (account #'s wrong, wrong company name) and when I told her that one of the addresses was wrong she told me that the address she used was the one they always used. That piece of mail was returned to me as undeliverable. He said that all the banks we deal with would re-title all of our accounts to the trust name, they don't. Some only let you add the trust as a beneficiary. He also had told me that the forms he gave me to mail out were all we would need but almost every financial institution has come back with their own forms to fill out. When you are in the office for the final signing, they give you this enormous ( 6" thick) binder. It's full of the legal terms of the trust interspersed with a few pages that have your personal information. I should have tried to convince my husband to try a different attorney after the first meeting.
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:43 AM   #3
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American Council of Trust and Estate Counsel is one place to start. Home Page | The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Depending upon what you need, might be more firepower than necessary, but as a group its members are quite competent. You can search for members in San Fran--yields 27 hits. Of course, it is not all inclusive....

(My best bud from law school is very active in ACTEC, which is how I came to know about it.)
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:51 AM   #4
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I have a trust. I paid ~$2800 to get it set up.

To be honest, I am not sure why you ever need an attorney to create a trust. It's just a cookie-cutter bunch of pages with assets listed. Other than transferring my own home into the trust, via a quick claim deed, anyone could have produced the same trust document. A quick claim deed is easy to do yourself too.

Mine is ~50 pages, with 48 pages being the same for no matter who the trust would be for. The attorney said I could hand write in any changes, although they would be willing to update it for free. I have 9 properties, NW of ~$4M, and I still do not see the need.

No one will enforce the trust stipulations, other than the 'trustee', which you appoint. There are no recorded versions of the trust so that there is an 'official' version. It's just a 3-ring binder on my desk.

Save your money.
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Old 11-01-2016, 02:26 PM   #5
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Senator, How long ago did you set up your trust? Ours cost 4500. and we don't have that many financial accounts and only one home. Our net worth is about half of yours.
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Old 11-01-2016, 04:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senator View Post
...

To be honest, I am not sure why you ever need an attorney to create a trust. It's just a cookie-cutter bunch of pages with assets listed. ...

No one will enforce the trust stipulations, other than the 'trustee', which you appoint. There are no recorded versions of the trust so that there is an 'official' version. It's just a 3-ring binder on my desk.

Save your money.
I tend to agree (for routine situations). The trusts of family members (and my own) that I've seen are filled with stuff to make it look like you got your money's worth. But if you ask them to explain something, they really can't. It's almost all just boilerplate from some program they use.

Since the trustee is often a friend/family, and not a lawyer, these things should be written in plain English that a non-lawyer can follow (or at least have a guide to explain any specific required legal terms).

Read the NOLO books, they spell it out. A few pages should be all most people need. I am seriously considering replacing my big binder that I paid for years ago with one I write myself. It should be updated anyway, all the kids are no longer minors, and are all on their own now.

-ERD50
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Old 11-01-2016, 04:40 PM   #7
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If you know an attorney, ask for a referral. Not every attorney is well versed in this specialized form of the law.

And when you go, do your homework and have all documents and information needed. These matters don't always have to be terribly complicated.

And like has been previously mentioned, many attorneys will take stock trusts and change them to your specific needs.

I've got to setup a special needs trust for my wayward daughter's kids, and expect it to be a $3K job. I spotted a specialized attorney on our local television station discussing trusts one Sunday night on the news.
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Old 11-01-2016, 04:48 PM   #8
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In many places, you can get a list of attorneys who are qualified in a particular area from the local bar association.
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Old 11-01-2016, 04:52 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by splitwdw View Post
I thought I was safe, going with a friends recommendation, NOT! We started setting up the trust 4 months ago and still having problems. My husband is sick and wants to go with this friends lawyer. He talks to us like we don't know anything. His secretary is a pain in the butt. I think she thinks because she works for an attorney she knows all the answers. When I call with a problem she never gives me a chance to explain what the whole issue is before she starts talking and you can't butt in. The paperwork I had to mail out had mistakes (account #'s wrong, wrong company name) and when I told her that one of the addresses was wrong she told me that the address she used was the one they always used. That piece of mail was returned to me as undeliverable. He said that all the banks we deal with would re-title all of our accounts to the trust name, they don't. Some only let you add the trust as a beneficiary. He also had told me that the forms he gave me to mail out were all we would need but almost every financial institution has come back with their own forms to fill out. When you are in the office for the final signing, they give you this enormous ( 6" thick) binder. It's full of the legal terms of the trust interspersed with a few pages that have your personal information. I should have tried to convince my husband to try a different attorney after the first meeting.
Sounds like you hired my stepdaughter's divorce attorney. Thousands spent, she got the shaft, and I ended up retyping the final decree and filing the final agreement.
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Old 11-01-2016, 05:22 PM   #10
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My experiences with this stuff convinced me you want to hire the expert in your county that is respected by the probate judges if your estate will be at all complicated. No matter how well the estate is planned, there are always issues. I have an attorney in San Jose that helped me solve a difficult problem by sending it through the Santa Clara County probate court. Turns out he teaches other attorneys about changes in the tax and estate laws. He's highly thought of by the local probate judges. If you are in Santa Clara County and want his name and information, PM me. If you are in SF, you should find a similar attorney up there.
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Old 11-02-2016, 01:14 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by 2017ish View Post
American Council of Trust and Estate Counsel is one place to start. Home Page | The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Depending upon what you need, might be more firepower than necessary, but as a group its members are quite competent. You can search for members in San Fran--yields 27 hits. Of course, it is not all inclusive....

(My best bud from law school is very active in ACTEC, which is how I came to know about it.)
+1

We've dealt with two ACTEC members, in different states, and unless you have reliable references to a good attorney, it's the only way to go. These guys pretty much specialize in this, not just a sidelight to divorce and other law.
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Old 11-09-2018, 06:57 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by splitwdw View Post
I thought I was safe, going with a friends recommendation, NOT! We started setting up the trust 4 months ago and still having problems. My husband is sick and wants to go with this friends lawyer. He talks to us like we don't know anything. His secretary is a pain in the butt. I think she thinks because she works for an attorney she knows all the answers. When I call with a problem she never gives me a chance to explain what the whole issue is before she starts talking and you can't butt in. The paperwork I had to mail out had mistakes (account #'s wrong, wrong company name) and when I told her that one of the addresses was wrong she told me that the address she used was the one they always used. That piece of mail was returned to me as undeliverable. He said that all the banks we deal with would re-title all of our accounts to the trust name, they don't. Some only let you add the trust as a beneficiary. He also had told me that the forms he gave me to mail out were all we would need but almost every financial institution has come back with their own forms to fill out. When you are in the office for the final signing, they give you this enormous ( 6" thick) binder. It's full of the legal terms of the trust interspersed with a few pages that have your personal information. I should have tried to convince my husband to try a different attorney after the first meeting.
Hello splitwdw, I realize this thread is 2 years old but wanted to tell you that I'm going through the same indignities as you, with an estate lawyer I hired and I just don't know what to do!

Were you able to hire a better lawyer I hope? Isn't this life incredible, we struggle at birth and we struggle throughout out lives with the hope of enjoying our last years in a pleasantly peaceful lifestyle...instead we are forced to keep struggling, but this time the struggle is so painful because we feel so impotent! Anyway, I wish you the very best! Adela

P.S. If you live in NYC, [mod edit] please send me a PM here if you wish.
(mod edit: removed email address)
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Old 11-10-2018, 12:13 PM   #13
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Ask the best tax attorneys or accountants in your area for a referral. They see the results of work done by Trust attorneys and know who the best ones are.

When I've asked attorneys for referrals to others in different practice areas, I haven't been pleased. I think the referring attorneys just met the other attorneys at Bar Association meetings or parties.

fyi - in my large county the Trust / Estate attorney everyone goes to is a terrific marketer. But I've seen his work and it is superficial. Luckily, someone far better came to town a few years ago. That firm's work is excellent.
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Old 11-10-2018, 12:21 PM   #14
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I'm in the Sacramento area, so not too far a drive from you. I can recommend Drobney Law Offices. Drobny Law Offices | Sacramento, CA Estate Planning Attorney
They have offices in Palo Alto and San Ramone if that's closer to you.

I had them set up my trust, power of atty for financial and medical, living will, final will for me and DW for about $1,500. They did all the paperwork. One interview, then back again to sign everything. Free minor updates to accounts and such during annual reviews.

Company I worked at had Mark Drobney come in at every retirement seminar to explain the product he offered and why we might need it. One of the best decisions I ever made.
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Old 11-10-2018, 12:25 PM   #15
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I'm in the Sacramento area, so not too far a drive from you. I can recommend Drobney Law Offices. Drobny Law Offices | Sacramento, CA Estate Planning Attorney
They have offices in Palo Alto and San Ramone if that's closer to you.

I had them set up my trust, power of atty for financial and medical, living will, final will for me and DW for about $1,500. They did all the paperwork. One interview, then back again to sign everything. Free minor updates to accounts and such during annual reviews.

Company I worked at had Mark Drobney come in at every retirement seminar to explain the product he offered and why we might need it. One of the best decisions I ever made.
I just had a firm quote me $10,000.00 for the exact same services here in Florida. I think I will keep looking...
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Old 11-10-2018, 07:42 PM   #16
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Ask the best tax attorneys or accountants in your area for a referral. They see the results of work done by Trust attorneys and know who the best ones are.

When I've asked attorneys for referrals to others in different practice areas, I haven't been pleased. I think the referring attorneys just met the other attorneys at Bar Association meetings or parties.

fyi - in my large county the Trust / Estate attorney everyone goes to is a terrific marketer. But I've seen his work and it is superficial. Luckily, someone far better came to town a few years ago. That firm's work is excellent.
Thanks very much gretah, I guess you're right and I must start from scratch again...
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Old 11-10-2018, 09:36 PM   #17
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You might also consider using your CPA--I found the Trust Attorney we used surprising limited in her understanding of tax issues and consequences of different choices. Even though she was on the list of Estate Attorneys referenced above, her bandwidth for dealing with non traditional assets seemed amazing limited. Whenever, I asked her about a tax consequence of a choice she deferred to "our cpa"

Agree with earlier comments about boiler plate and completing forms. She turned all the details over her paralegals who were of the same bandwidth and did not get legal descriptions correct on 2 of 6 quit claims so suggest you double check the details of the work.
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Old 11-10-2018, 10:01 PM   #18
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Well, the "estate lawyer" I now have I discovered she does only 25% estate matters (I thought so by the way she behaved!), the rest is on immigration and unemployment. True, it's my fault for not having checked her out more before.

So now I went to ACTEC in the hope of finding a bona fide estate lawyer who also is a conscientious and competent professional.

I have no idea what their consult fee will be, but it seems I'm working only for estate attorneys as this would be the 3rd lawyer I'll have to pay for all those papers, etc.

The 1st one of many years retired and moved out of state: around $2000 +. Then in panick I found quickly this INexperienced "estate atty": around $1800 +. Now, I will take more time and care on choosing the next one but will, again, have to disburse a similar amount (and probably much higher at ACTEC)...

They don't leave us alone throughout our last days of our lives, do they? Sigh...
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