Month: March 2023

6 Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney

Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning is an important process for anyone with assets to pass on, but it’s also unfamiliar. For this reason, it’s best to have assistance from a lawyer who knows all of the options available to you and how to prepare the necessary documents to stand up to scrutiny later.

If you plan on consulting with a lawyer, you probably want to get the most out of your meetings. To help with this, here are a few questions to ask your potential estate planning attorney.

1. How Much Experience Do You Have with Estate Planning?

As you may be aware, most lawyers have specialized areas of practice, and many have little or no experience with estate planning. In contrast, any attorney could draft a simple will, anything more complicated that should be handled by an estate planning specialist. Many rules govern the preparation of wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents, so you want to be sure everything is done correctly and efficiently.

2. What Do You Charge for Your Services?

No doubt, this is already on your mind, and it’s perfectly acceptable to ask about the attorney’s fee structure. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for estate planning, others charge by the hour, or they may offer both options.

3. How Long Will It Take to Draft My Estate Plan?

With any legal service, it’s always good for both lawyer and client to be on the same page concerning how long the process will take. Attorneys are used to working on longer time lines and sometimes forget to communicate this to their clients. Estate planning is a fairly straight-forward service, so an attorney should be able to give you an accurate estimate.

4. Can You Create a Comprehensive Estate Plan?

A comprehensive estate plan involves more than just a will. You may want to prepare trusts, powers of attorney, life insurance documents, and more. A good estate planning attorney should be able to assist you with any of this, and provide you with guidance to decide on the best course.

5. Do You Offer Periodic Reviews of My Estate Plan?

Estate planning may seem like a “one and done” process, but it’s important to check periodically that everything is up to date. Life events such as marriage, divorce, and children will likely profoundly affect your estate planning goals. Many attorneys offer a periodic review for a set fee, so it’s good to ask about this service.

6. What Happens If You Retire or Change Firms?

Hopefully, it will be many years before you pass away and your estate plan goes into action; it’s possible that, in the meantime, your attorney retired, moved to a different firm, or even passed away themselves. However, estate planning lawyers should have a plan in place for this eventuality, and it’s important to find out what it is for your peace of mind and to make things easier for your loved ones.

Schedule Your First Meeting

Now that you have some questions prepared, the next step is to schedule an appointment. At Hoffman & Forde, our estate planning team has years of experience helping clients craft plans that meet their unique needs. We are at your disposal to answer any questions and to get the process started right away. Contact our office to set up a consultation.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Commercial Lease?

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Commercial Lease?

Residential leases are full of legally required safeguards to help keep them fair because everyone needs a home, and virtually no one hires an attorney to review their rental agreement. Commercial leases are an entirely different beast. The rules protecting home renters do not apply in the commercial context, as both parties are presumed to be “sophisticated” (i.e., they understand the law and the world of commercial real estate).

The good news is that this frees up both parties to negotiate almost all of the agreement’s terms, allowing for much greater flexibility. However, it does mean that commercial lease negotiations are generally more complex. For this reason, it is often a good idea to hire a commercial real estate attorney to help you. Here are a few reasons why.

Initial Negotiation

As mentioned above, most of the terms of a commercial lease are negotiable. This can be a good thing, as it allows you to reach an agreement that meets your specific needs, but to take advantage of this, you need to be aware of your options. Commonly negotiated terms include:

  • Property Taxes & Insurance – Depending on the type of lease, it’s not unheard of for renters to be responsible for not just the rent but also property taxes and insurance premiums. Of course, this is more advantageous for the landlord, but as with everything in negotiation, it can be used to obtain more favorable terms in other areas.
  • Maintenance Costs – This can cover everything from security to utilities, which can add up quickly. The renter can be responsible for some or all of these costs, and the lease should identify this.
  • Term Length – Commercial leases are typically of a much longer duration than residential leases, and it’s not uncommon to see leases that last five years or more. Longer leases usually mean lower rent, though they also mean higher potential costs if you want out early.
  • Competitor Clause – If you are a retailer or restaurant owner, you may want to restrict the landlord from leasing to competitors near your business.
  • Termination Clause – If you need to end the lease early, what happens should be clear. Are you responsible for paying the remainder of the lease? Can you sublet the space?

These and other important terms are all on the table during a commercial lease negotiation. Having an attorney who is familiar with all of your options can help you find the right balance.

Renegotiating Your Commercial Lease

If there’s one constant in business, it’s that things are constantly changing. The economy goes up or down, consumer trends shift, etc., which can affect your business. If you find yourself in a position where you need to lower costs, it may be possible to renegotiate your commercial lease. Of course, the landlord’s willingness to renegotiate will depend on the real estate market. Still, in general, landlords prefer the stability of a paying renter compared to the uncertainty of finding a new one.

Having an experienced real estate attorney can greatly help this situation. Not only do they understand the ins and outs of commercial leases, they can also relieve a lot of stress when needed.

Talk to a Commercial Real Estate Specialist

Our experienced team understands the Southern California real estate market and knows how to get the best deal for your business. Whether you are just starting or are looking to renegotiate, Hoffman & Forde can help put your business on the best footing possible. Schedule a consultation today to talk to one of our real estate specialists.