Estate planning involves a set of legal, financial, and accounting advisory services that help clients transfer their assets to heirs in a tax-efficient way. A person’s estate, at any given point in time, is his net worth.
While it can be a morbid situation to make end-of-life decisions, it is essential to draw up an estate plan. Without an estate plan, decisions may be left to the next of kin or the state.
The estate planning attorney prepares the will of the client and upon their death, ensures that the wealth is distributed according to the client’s wishes to heirs and beneficiaries. Let’s take a look into what an estate planning attorney is.
Estate planning attorneys help clients make decisions about the distribution of their estate. They draft wills, trusts, power of attorneys, and other estate planning documents.
Naming guardians for minor children, paying the client’s debts, establishing preferences for funeral arrangements are some of the duties of the estate planning attorney.
While carrying on his duties, the attorney must make sure that he helps minimize taxes and fees that can be imposed on the estate.
Estate planning attorneys also advise on life insurance policies, retirement plans, and charitable contributions. In case the client’s will goes to the probate court, the attorney gets involved in the litigation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for all lawyers is 6% from 2018-2028. The median annual salary of lawyers in general in May 2019 was $122,960.
An aspiring estate planning attorney has to complete law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Estate law is included in the coursework of the J.D. program. After law school, the candidate has to pass the state bar exam and earn a license to practice law.
Some go on to pursue a masters in law with a specialization in estate law. Apart from a law degree, estate planning attorneys may additionally have financial or accounting degrees.
There are various certifications available that train lawyers in financial planning, ethics, tax laws, compliance, and regulations.
Some of the most valued certifications are the Chartered Trust and Estate Planner (CTEP), the Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) the Certified Trust, and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA).
Aspiring estate planning lawyers acquire work experience through mentor-ship and internships. Moot courts, practice trials, legal clinics at law school also help the students gain experience.
Many law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies offer summer internship programs and part-time jobs. Newly graduated lawyers are hired to work as associates with other lawyers and firms.
After several years, they may be admitted into partnership with the firm while others might prefer to go into their own practice or join the legal department of a large corporation.
How to Apply?
If you have the required education and experience, you can go ahead and post your resume on various job platforms for lawyers. You can also apply for a job by filling an online application.
You will be attaching your resume, references, and writing a solid cover letter describing your expertise, certifications, and experience.
There are many online platforms solely dedicated to legal jobs. Some of these platforms are lawjobs.com, lawdawgs.com, lawcrossing.com, and the NALP placement center.
Joining a professional estate law association like the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC) can also help one meet and network with practicing estate lawyers, leading to potential placements.
The Bottom Line
Being an estate planning attorney requires a good mix of professionalism and empathy. Notwithstanding excellent communication skills and credibility.
If you have these skills, you are well suited to pursue a career as an estate planning attorney and sure to find success!