Estate planning must follow the laws of your state of residence, so your estate-planning attorney should be someone licensed to practice where you live. A trust provision or tax strategy that is allowed in Alabama might not be allowed in Georgia (or vice versa).

Estate planning involves the assessment of future risks and the careful documentation of a plan capable of dealing with the worst of these risks. Your estate-planning lawyer needs to be a person who does not raise your blood pressure while discussing very personal preferences and experiences. He will need to ask about possibilities in life and death you have never considered.

Have you ever watched one of those cooking shows in which the competing cooks have to make something using one or two odd ingredients? Well, that is the culinary equivalent of estate planning. The estate-planning attorney needs to make the known and hidden ingredients blend in a way to benefit the family. Estate planning is a creative activity made necessary by the uncertainties of life, the unevenness of talents, and the complexities of family.

Your lawyer is your trusted adviser, but you are in charge! You don’t want your lawyer to be a “know-it-all” nor do you want your lawyer to be trying to force you to follow a set formula. Estate planning is not a single event, but a process, and the process works best when the client and the attorney create something together that is unique to the client’s need and situation.