The most frequently asked question that I receive, no matter what area of practice, is "how do I choose the right attorney?" This is a very good question, and one that most people are unsure about. It is also a very subjective question. By that I mean, your criteria for choosing an attorney may not be the same for someone else, and your criteria for what constitutes a good attorney might be different for you than it is for someone else. I can't anticipate what is important for every person who is interviewing attorneys, but I can offer some general guidance, and this is not an exhaustive list just a few hints.
First, you need an attorney who practices the type of law that covers your area of need. For example: You would not hire a real estate attorney to handle your criminal defense case. That isn't to say that a real estate attorney cannot also practice criminal law, but that attorney should have experience in your area of law.
Next, you want to find an attorney that fits your budget. The best attorney in the world does you no good if you can't afford to hire them. Likewise, an attorney who charges too little may not be the right choice because unless they charge appropriately for their services, they cannot afford to devote the appropriate amount of time to your case. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Expect to pay a reasonable fee to your attorney.
Finally, you need an attorney who you can get along with. Understanding that you are choosing a person to help you with an ongoing project (no matter what your issue is). This person will need to be able to communicate with you and help you understand what is going on. Interpersonal conflicts interfere with your ability to understand what is going on and potentially the attorney's ability to understand what your goals are. With that in mind, you should interview potential attorney's listen to how they speak to you. Do they speak to you or AT you? Do they speak in confusing legal terms or do they attempt to help you understand the concepts. The thing to remember is that this is not the first time your attorney has seen a case like yours, but it may be the first time that you have needed an attorney. You need to understand what is going on so you can feel confident in your outcome. If the attorney you interview can't do that, he or she probably isn't the right choice for you.
Another question I am often asked is " do I really need an attorney?" Not all legal problems necessarily need an attorney. However, most issues should, at least, be run by an attorney. Can you defend yourself in criminal court? Yes. Should you? probably not. The reason is that in criminal cases, the State is represented by trained attorneys who are very familiar with the criminal laws and the laws of evidence. Unless you have attended law school, and keep up-to-date on changes in the laws, you probably aren't. An attorney is able to spot problems with a case or investigation that you probably wouldn't, but that could result in the entire case falling apart. If these issues aren't realized and addressed you may give up any ability to take advantage of those issues.
Likewise, you can legally draft your own will, as long as it conforms to certain procedures it can be probated. However, if you don't know the formalities of executing a will it may not be valid, and you will have no control over the disposition of your estate. Another question that an attorney can answer for you is is a will the correct solution for you? In Estate planning, often wills alone are inadequate to achieve a person's planning goals. Wills alone will only distribute property and potentially plan for defendant family members after you die. It also may not provide adequate tax planning. If your goal is to provide for yourself and your family while you are living a trust might be more appropriate. An attorney can help you decide what strategy will best achieve those goals and will help you implement that strategy. Advanced planning should always be done with an experienced attorney.
You should always consult with an attorney about your legal issue whether you ultimately decide to hire one or not. Most attorneys provide free consultations so what do you have to lose.
Probate law in Georgia , and most states, allows for settlement of a person's estate "intestate" which means, without a will. State's have different distribution schemes that will be followed where there isn't a will, and if you have heirs they generally will receive the net estate, with no consideration of your final wishes. If, however, you want to give specific gifts or prevent certain people from inheriting then you need a will or trust to direct the flow of your life's work. There are also child care issues to consider. If you have minor or dependent children or relative, who rely on you for care, then you need a will or trust to give direction as to who will care for them. A will can also gives instructions on how to continue or dispose of a business.
While you don't necessarily have to have a will, if you have anything or anyone you want to protect you need a will or trust to ensure that your loved ones are protected.
Stephen Rountree Law
3101 Cobb Pkwy SE #124, Atlanta, GA 30339
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