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What does an estate planning lawyer do?

Trusts and estates lawyers draft estate planning documents, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney and advanced medical directives. In addition to estate planning, these lawyers are often involved in the estate administration of a decedent. Both estate planning and estate administration may have federal and state transfer and income tax ramifications, and many trusts and estates lawyers have tax expertise. Trusts and estates can also overlap with elder law, which deals with issues that include Medicaid qualification, Medicare, long-term care insurance, and Social Security or disability benefits. Attorneys with expertise in the legal issues faced by the elderly will be in high demand over the next two decades.

  • What skills do I need to be an estate planning lawyer?

    An estate planning practice requires a good foundation in trust and estate law, elder law, family law, property law and tax law. Most estate planning attorneys spend their time creating individualized estate plans for their clients and drafting documents to effectuate those plans. Some do estate or trust administration and need to know their fiduciary responsibilities as well as applicable federal, state and local filing requirements. A few do litigation or alternate dispute resolution.
  • What kinds of jobs are available for estate planning lawyers?

    Trusts and estates lawyers work in small, midsized and large law firms. They also work in trust departments in banks.

  • What courses should I take?

    Take trusts and estates and income tax courses during your second year of law school. It is important to take these courses because they serve as prerequisites for other classes, such as planning for families and seniors, estate and gift tax, estate planning, elder law and income taxation of trusts and estates. Consider concentrating in estate planning while in law school, obtaining the estate planning certification and/or getting an LL.M. in Taxation at UB.

    Federal Income Tax • Trusts and Estates • Estate and Gift Taxation • Estate Planning Workshop or Estate Planning • Planning for Families and Seniors Workshop • Estate Planning Attorney Practice Externship • Elder Law • Family Law • Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates • Tax Exempt Organizations • Advanced Legal Research involving an estate planning topic • Interviewing, Negotiating and Counseling • Partnership Taxation • S-Corporations • Tax Policy Seminar

  • What co-curricular and volunteer activities should I consider?

    Work as an extern or a law clerk with a trusts and estates practice during your second and third years of law school. Join the Estates and Trusts Section of the MSBA, join the practitioners’ listserv, and attend events and programs. Join the ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law and be sure to check out the Law Student Resources and their student writing competition in Trust and Estate Law. Enter the annual Mary Moers Wenig Student Writing Competition of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). Follow the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.

  • Who should I talk to for more information?