Estate Planning AttorneyJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

People use estate planning attorneys to help them plan for how their assets will be distributed after they die. To do this, an estate planning attorney drafts documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. These documents can reduce or even eliminate any questions about how an estate should be dispensed.

Though drafting documents is a large part of an estate planning attorney’s job, they can also advise clients about charitable contributions, retirement plans, and life insurance policies. They also collaborate with financial managers and insurance professionals, so teamwork and communication skills are essential. If a case goes to probate court, estate planning attorneys take part in litigating those cases.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for an experienced estate planning attorney. We are in need of an exceptionally analytical candidate with great negotiation and organization skills who is able to work full-time. An estate planning attorney drafts documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorneys. This position comes with a lot of responsibility and aims to reduce questions about how an estate should be handled. If you have plenty of experience working in estate planning, are a licensed attorney, and have exceptional written communication skills, please apply!

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Discuss plans with clients for distributing clients’ assets
  • Draft and file wills, trusts and powers of attorney
  • Advise clients regarding retirement plans, charitable giving, and insurance options
  • Litigate cases that go to probate court

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work. A background in finance, accounting, or tax law is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in written and verbal communication
  • Knowledge of federal and state laws and regulations regarding taxes, wills, trusts, and estates
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Responsive customer service
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Organizational skills

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for an estate planning attorney is $120,000 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$119,350$161,450
Los Angeles, California$134,650$182,150
Denver, Colorado$112,200$151,800
Washington, DC$136,700$184,900
Miami, Florida$111,700$151,100
Orlando, Florida$103,000$139,400
Tampa, Florida$104,050$140,750
Atlanta, Georgia$109,150$147,650
Chicago, Illinois$125,450$169,750
Boston, Massachusetts$135,650$183,550
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$108,100$142,300
New York City, New York$142,800$193,200
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$116,300$157,300
Dallas, Texas$113,200$153,200
Houston, Texas$112,200$151,800
Seattle, Washington$130,550$176,650
National Average$102,000$138,000

Typical work environment

Many estate planning attorneys may work independently or as part of a private practice, or they may be employed with a law firm that has a department that specializes in planning estates. They may spend a lot of time in the office working and meeting with clients, or they may travel to meet clients and go to court proceedings. 

Typical hours

The work hours in an office setting for an estate planning attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week, especially when nearing deadlines or preparing for court proceedings.

Available certifications

Though attorneys don’t need any additional certifications other than their J.D. from an accredited university, having additional certifications can help. Check out the following: 

  • The CEP Certification. This certification offered by NICEP is one of the nation’s highest echelon educational/support organizations in the area of estate planning. 
  • The CTEP (the Chartered Trust and Estate Planner). This certification is offered by the Global Academy of Finance and Management. Candidates need to have met annual continuing education requirements, which may vary. 
  • TheAEP (Accredited Estate Planner). This certification is awarded by the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils. You’ll need to take two graduate-level courses to qualify.

Career path

Estate planning attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where they will work. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to pursue a J.D. degree. In college, candidates should take courses in subjects like finance, accounting, taxation, and the like.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress on either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

There are some significant trends concerning estate planning in the coming years. First, people increasingly put off using estate planning attorneys during uncertain economic times. Second, there has been a rise in the use of legal technology companies and prepaid legal services for estate planning. Rather than using an attorney to draw up wills, trusts, and powers of attorney, people are turning to companies that offer pre-drafted documents that only require them to fill in their specific details as a way of saving money on estate planning. However, the rapidly increasing size of the retirement-age population in the U.S. suggests there will still be a sustained need for estate planning attorneys.

Sample interview questions

  • What experiences have you had with estate planning?
  • How long have you been a practicing lawyer?
  • How do you make sure to communicate clearly with clients?
  • What do you first do when presented with a legal issue?
  • How do you handle and deal with stressful trials?
  • What did you do when you encountered an experience that challenged your ethical concerns?
  • What’s an example of when you demonstrated maximum effort by working really long hours?
  • How do you assemble requisite arguments in order to bring others to your side?
  • Describe one experience when you ended up presenting evidence to defend clients and it resulted in prosecuting defendants in criminal or civil litigation.
  • How do you organize, plan, and prioritize your work?
  • Is analyzing data a strength?
  • How do you handle feedback?
  • Tell me about your law school internship or externship. 
  • What is your favorite part about this line of work?
  • Why did you choose the school that you went to?

Estate Planning Attorney Jobs in Ashburn

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