But to become a successful estate lawyer?
This requires more than just spending years in school! 👇
1. Specialize in estate planning during law school
Once you finish your first year of law school, you can select specialized courses to become an estate lawyer.
You'll learn about:
Asset management — laws around managing the value of client's property
Estate planning — how to work with the client and laws to consolidate their assets after death
Family law —the legal entitlement family members have to these assets after client's death
Real estate law — the ins and outs of selling a property or transferring ownership during will execution
Taxation — how tax affects the clients assets outlined in the will
Trusts — how to set up and manage money for a beneficiary in a will
2. Become an expert on local estate law
Time to bust an estate planning myth, y'all! 💥
Estate Law Myth
Estate law is often seen as an easier law practice. Some lawyers even move out of criminal or corporate law with the idea that they'll breeze through the change.
You can’t fudge estate planning if you’ve been practicing another stream of law!
In fact, it's not uncommon for your client to have property or assets in different states, provinces etc. And since estate tax laws are different from region to region, you'll need to be even more knowledgeable about your client's regional tax laws if you want to be a successful estate lawyer.
For example, in the United States, efforts have been made to streamline the probate process across the country.
It's called the Uniform Probate Code. The document includes:
Rules for administering trusts
Protections for folks with disabilities
What to do if a citizen doesn't have a will
3. Understand the needs of an estate planning audience
Even as an estate lawyer, you'll have to think about marketing. Every potential client you speak with will have expectations, and your approach to client care can make or break those expectations.
What's the difference in client service between estate law and other legal practices?
In criminal law, clients often: 🧍
Reach out exactly when they need you
Have a sense of urgency or a court-ordered timeline
May prioritize reputation over fees
In estate law, clients are often: 👪
More likely to focus on service costs
Have time to hear your pitch several times
Seek out affordable alternatives to create a will
4. Network through multiple channels
Connect with your client audience by building relationships with clients through specialists in other financial milestones.
For example, when people in your area:
Refinance their budget
Get their taxes done
Take out a mortgage
These other more pressing needs for potential clients require specialists that can become lead sources. Once you build a reputation, these specialists can recommend you as an estate lawyer for estate planning services.
Seek out specialists by building a reputation at events:
Like to make slideshows? Give a presentation at a professional conference.
Better one-on-one? Attend a cocktail reception for local businesses.
Good at public speaking? Join a thought leadership panel at a professional association.
Want to work remotely? Host live events on LinkedIn or Instagram to get the word out.
Akona has two years of experience as a criminal lawyer and just moved to Denver, Colorado. ⛰️ Akona is feeling burnt out, so they're looking to pivot into estate planning law to have more time for self care. Is it a good idea for Akona to pivot now?
5. Get to know your clients well
To be a successful estate lawyer, you'll need excellent knowledge of your client's needs to ensure the best recommendations for their estate plan.
A customized estate plan can include:
Property law —If your client owns any property, they'll need a plan for what happens to ownership after death.
Disability arrangements —Some clients will have children with disabilities, so you'll need to advise them on how to make sure their child is cared for when they're gone.
Gift tax returns — Some wills include large monetary gifts. Check your local laws to find out the taxable threshold.
Healthcare planning —Every client's will should include plans for the event that the client becomes incapacitated. For example, do they want palliative care in a hospital, or at home?
It's time to get organized! If you're thinking of becoming an estate lawyer, here are a few steps to take in the next few days: