Clients often ask me where they should look for a competent tax preparer, or a good estate planning attorney. Here’s some recommendations as well as places to search.
- Search the American Institute of CPAs at aicpa.org.
The American Bar association at findlegalhelp.org can also be used to find a lawyer. Many states have legal aid offices that you can check.
Questions to ask when hiring a lawyer from “The Wall Street Journal Complete Estate Planning Guidebook” by Rachel Emma Silverman:
- Do they charge by the hour or a flat rate?
- Are follow-up calls/emails/scanned copies free or not?
- Do they specialize in estate planning [if that’s why you’re hiring them]?
- Explain your situation and ask what they’d recommend and also for a ballpark price range.
- Are they a large firm or boutique?
- Do they have other clients similar to you, or not?
- Do they have values you seem to agree with?
- Do they seem to “get” you and your situation?
Estate planning attorneys
Search American College of Trust and Estate Counsel: actec.org
I use and recommend Suze Orman’s online will and trust creator for your DIY estate planning needs. Buy it once and you can go back and update your docs in the future as circumstances change (as I did when our second child was born!) Use this link for 50% off the $200 (as of writing) price.
If you need help appraising, say, a family business or other property that’s hard to value, try appraisers.org.
- Obviously, you should consider hiring me, a fee-only, fiduciary, no-AUM fees independent Registered Investment Advisor. In addition to those criteria, an advisor should be able to use a HP12-C financial calculator or spreadsheet program to do net present value/future value/payment calculations like these.
- If you want someone else, napfa.org has a list of fee-only CFPs. (Beware AUM charges though, and note that most advisor search sites are ‘pay to play’, as in, they charge fees to advisors be listed. This is why you won’t find me on them as of writing. That said, they are helpful if you don’t know where else to turn!)
- You can double-check an advisor’s registration, disciplinary actions (if any) and other facts at the SEC.
- For business-succession planning, try the Family Firm Institute: ffi.org
Managing your own money without an advisor
- Vanguard is my top choice for your investment & retirement accounts due to their great fund offerings and ‘co-op’ style organization.
- Fidelity is an excellent, though for-profit, choice. If you already have accounts here, it might be easier to choose Fidelity over Vanguard.
- Schwab and T. Rowe Price are also fine, but I like Vanguard and Fidelity a lot more.