Jump to content

Wills & Estates Lawyer AMA


Mountebank
 Share

Recommended Posts

Darth Vader
  • Lawyer

Which Big law or Bay Street firms have good wills and estates groups? I have a couple friends working at these places and am wondering if there is much of a difference with doing this work in a Big law firm as opposed to mid-sized firms and boutiques. 

How is the future in this practice area? I am assuming that it is looking bright with our ageing population. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, Darth Vader said:

Which Big law or Bay Street firms have good wills and estates groups? I have a couple friends working at these places and am wondering if there is much of a difference with doing this work in a Big law firm as opposed to mid-sized firms and boutiques. 

How is the future in this practice area? I am assuming that it is looking bright with our ageing population. 

I can't speak to the experience at Big Law for Wills & Estates lawyers, but as far as reputation goes it's not what they're known for and I'd say the biggest names in this area (especially Litigation) are at the boutiques.

In terms of the future, it's solid as long as there's death and taxes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
elars
  • Law Student

Thanks for taking the time to do this, it is much appreciated! I'm very interested in wills and estates so this has been extremely informative. I have a few questions if you don't mind!

(For context, I'm a 3L law student about to graduate and I have a position at a large full service firm).

(1) I'm primarily interested in the solicitor side of the job (drafting wills and estate planning), with only a marginal interest in litigation. Do most wills and estates lawyers do both of the litigation and solicitor sides of the job? Or do some primarily focus on one or the other?

 

(2) Do you have any advice for an articling student/first year associate who wants to get into wills and estates? Since I'm at a full service firm with a wills and estates practice group, I guess my question is really more about what tips do you have for a young lawyer in this area? Any common mistakes/pitfalls? Any particular topics/types of files that a young lawyer should pay extra attention to?

 

(3) In law school, I've taken the courses on wills and estates, trusts, and real estate. I wasn't able to fit the estate planning course into my schedule so I couldn't take it. Will this result in a much tougher learning curve in the beginning, or will I still be ok? The estate planning course is primarily a tax course and while I was unable to take it, I have taken two other tax courses (basic tax and international tax) so I have at least some tax knowledge (although, my tax knowledge is still quite limited as I have no practical experience).

Edited by elars
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fruitdealer
  • Lawyer
7 hours ago, elars said:

(3) In law school, I've taken the courses on wills and estates, trusts, and real estate. I wasn't able to fit the estate planning course into my schedule so I couldn't take it. Will this result in a much tougher learning curve in the beginning, or will I still be ok? The estate planning course is primarily a tax course and while I was unable to take it, I have taken two other tax courses (basic tax and international tax) so I have at least some tax knowledge (although, my tax knowledge is still quite limited as I have no practical experience).

Since you have taken some tax courses, I wouldn't expect it to be that hard for you to pick up the estate planning aspect. That said, the most important tax class imo would have been corporate tax - probably equal or more than the actual estate planning course. I would just suggest that you get a basic idea of corporate tax/integration work because a significant part of the estate planning in Canada involves estate freezes/family trusts. Corporate tax is also important in post-mortem tax planning, though that work might also go to your firm's tax group.

You can PM me if you want.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
On 3/31/2022 at 3:54 AM, elars said:

Thanks for taking the time to do this, it is much appreciated! I'm very interested in wills and estates so this has been extremely informative. I have a few questions if you don't mind!

(For context, I'm a 3L law student about to graduate and I have a position at a large full service firm).

(1) I'm primarily interested in the solicitor side of the job (drafting wills and estate planning), with only a marginal interest in litigation. Do most wills and estates lawyers do both of the litigation and solicitor sides of the job? Or do some primarily focus on one or the other?

 

(2) Do you have any advice for an articling student/first year associate who wants to get into wills and estates? Since I'm at a full service firm with a wills and estates practice group, I guess my question is really more about what tips do you have for a young lawyer in this area? Any common mistakes/pitfalls? Any particular topics/types of files that a young lawyer should pay extra attention to?

 

(3) In law school, I've taken the courses on wills and estates, trusts, and real estate. I wasn't able to fit the estate planning course into my schedule so I couldn't take it. Will this result in a much tougher learning curve in the beginning, or will I still be ok? The estate planning course is primarily a tax course and while I was unable to take it, I have taken two other tax courses (basic tax and international tax) so I have at least some tax knowledge (although, my tax knowledge is still quite limited as I have no practical experience).

Sorry for the late response. I saw your post, didn't have time to respond, and then forgot about it until now. Using the same numbering in your post:

1. There is some overlap (like with passing accounts or guardianship issues), but, generally speaking, litigators and solicitors stay in their own lanes. If you want to do only solicitor Wills & Estates work, then you're likelier to also do some other solicitor work (real estate, possibly some corporate/commercial) than you are litigation. That said, that's not how my practice is structured and I do both (although I consider myself a solicitor). I don't do any corporate/commercial and increasingly less real estate.

2. Rely heavily on your senior lawyers for guidance here. If you want more exposure to the practice area, make it known. Like anything, you learn principally by doing. Seek out opportunities to assist on Will files (observe meetings with clients, practice taking notes, offer to attempt to draft the initial Will and POAs, etc.). There's often a need for some additional Wills & Estates support, so you'd have a decent shot at finding a lawyer at your firm who will let you help out and offer some guidance.

3. Although there's a lot of foundational knowledge in most estate planning courses, I would say the trusts course was probably more important since that covers a lot of the pitfall areas. Focus on estate planning-related CPD and pick up a textbook if you want to study on your own time. Otherwise, be diligent and seek advice from your supervising lawyer or a mentor.

I'm sorry about the generality of some of my responses, but a lot of this boils down to communicating with the lawyers supervising you and seeking out opportunities in this area within your firm.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
LizzieBennett
  • Law Student

Hello Mountebank,

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions about this. Also, it my first time posting on the forum so I'm sorry if my questions are redundant or if there are technical glitches, I'm just very new to this forum. For some background, I'm starting 2L at Osgoode in September. Wills and Estates is a practice area I'm seriously considering because I really enjoyed my property class in first year, so I just want to try and get some clarity as to whether I might enjoy this as a career path before diving in.  So these are the questions I've been thinking about, but please also feel free to provide any further advice.

  1. What would you say are the character/personality traits that ensure success in this practice area? I'm just trying to think through whether I have what it takes and if I would like this path.
  2. I realize that first year property would be very introductory, but is material covered there a reasonable indication of what more in-depth courses and actual practice is like?
  3. What is your favourite aspect of the day to day work and what is the aspect you enjoy the least?
  4. What would you say that the demand is like and are there opportunities for someone just starting out?
  5. I noticed in earlier discussions that Wills and Estates could be paired with other similar practice areas, I was wondering what sort of combinations or related areas would complement a Wills and Estates practice?

Thanks so much once again for taking the time.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, LizzieBennett said:

Hello Mountebank,

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions about this. Also, it my first time posting on the forum so I'm sorry if my questions are redundant or if there are technical glitches, I'm just very new to this forum. For some background, I'm starting 2L at Osgoode in September. Wills and Estates is a practice area I'm seriously considering because I really enjoyed my property class in first year, so I just want to try and get some clarity as to whether I might enjoy this as a career path before diving in.  So these are the questions I've been thinking about, but please also feel free to provide any further advice.

  1. What would you say are the character/personality traits that ensure success in this practice area? I'm just trying to think through whether I have what it takes and if I would like this path.
  2. I realize that first year property would be very introductory, but is material covered there a reasonable indication of what more in-depth courses and actual practice is like?
  3. What is your favourite aspect of the day to day work and what is the aspect you enjoy the least?
  4. What would you say that the demand is like and are there opportunities for someone just starting out?
  5. I noticed in earlier discussions that Wills and Estates could be paired with other similar practice areas, I was wondering what sort of combinations or related areas would complement a Wills and Estates practice?

Thanks so much once again for taking the time.

 

1. Hmmm. I don't know if there are any specific traits that are different from other areas of private practice generally. But I would say that the two most important traits (which are learned) are a high degree of organization and a high attention to detail. Wills & Estates is also a practice area that requires good service skills since it's fairly intimate and you're looking for referrals from clients/repeat business. I would expect that this would be so for any retail practice (i.e. a practice that doesn't rely on institutional clients). The work can be fairly dry (or even rote) at times, so you need a fairly high tolerance for this while at the same time being alert for those times in which extra care and attention is required to properly serve a client, avoid pitfalls, and protect yourself.

2. No. You would rely on the principles taught to you in a first year property course (ownership, rule against perpetuities, etc.) but if you enjoyed property in 1L, that's probably not a reliable indication as to whether you'd enjoy Wills & Estates. I'd recommend taking your school's Estate Planning/Trusts/Estate Admin courses if possible as this would expose you to more specialized law (although this still doesn't really help you decide if you'd enjoy the practice itself). Ultimately, working in the practice is the only way to really know if it's for you.

3. My favourite aspect is the scheduling freedom. This is an area with few hard deadlines and where nothing is usually that pressing. You get a lot of control over your schedule. I can't think of things Wills & Estates-specific that I really dislike. The things I don't like are probably common across practice areas (e.g. dealing with difficult clients, billing issues, etc.) but those aren't especially common in this area (or at least not in my practice). I like most my clients, I rarely get stiffed, and the work isn't that stressful (on the solicitor side anyway).

4. There's soft demand right now for newish calls and slightly more significant demand for junior to mid-level calls in Ontario at the moment. It's a growth area and not really market-dependant (death and taxes and all that). It's an all-round solid area to get into as far as all that goes, IMO.

5. People who practice Wills & Estates in a significant way often practice at least some real estate as well (which I do). Some will also do corporate/commercial (which I don't). These three areas all complement each other. Then there are lawyers who draft Wills in a small way. These lawyers are fairly diverse in their main practice areas (family, criminal, all sorts), but I tend to take a fairly dim view of a lot of those lawyers. Some lawyers who do Wills & Estates may also do some estate litigation, although this crossover is not so common as estate litigation has grown into its own niche area.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MOL
  • Lawyer

Anyone have any experience or knowledge re various software packages that claim to make the life of an executor easier; accounting, filling in forms, tracking expenses etc? Are they just the executor version of the legal will kits or do they actually provide value? If they are any good, any recommendations? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, MOL said:

Anyone have any experience or knowledge re various software packages that claim to make the life of an executor easier; accounting, filling in forms, tracking expenses etc? Are they just the executor version of the legal will kits or do they actually provide value? If they are any good, any recommendations? 

Estateably is what I use. Per file fees. Cloud-based. Quite good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MOL
  • Lawyer

But is it worth if for someone who is an executor only to use, i.e. not for someone who is practicing wills and estates but for an executor to track expenses etc as they wind up an estate?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer

I think that would depend on the Estate. If you'll be needing to prepare formal or at least fulsome accounts, then I'd say yes. Otherwise, just do the Excel thing. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LizzieBennett
  • Law Student
21 hours ago, Mountebank said:

1. Hmmm. I don't know if there are any specific traits that are different from other areas of private practice generally. But I would say that the two most important traits (which are learned) are a high degree of organization and a high attention to detail. Wills & Estates is also a practice area that requires good service skills since it's fairly intimate and you're looking for referrals from clients/repeat business. I would expect that this would be so for any retail practice (i.e. a practice that doesn't rely on institutional clients). The work can be fairly dry (or even rote) at times, so you need a fairly high tolerance for this while at the same time being alert for those times in which extra care and attention is required to properly serve a client, avoid pitfalls, and protect yourself.

2. No. You would rely on the principles taught to you in a first year property course (ownership, rule against perpetuities, etc.) but if you enjoyed property in 1L, that's probably not a reliable indication as to whether you'd enjoy Wills & Estates. I'd recommend taking your school's Estate Planning/Trusts/Estate Admin courses if possible as this would expose you to more specialized law (although this still doesn't really help you decide if you'd enjoy the practice itself). Ultimately, working in the practice is the only way to really know if it's for you.

3. My favourite aspect is the scheduling freedom. This is an area with few hard deadlines and where nothing is usually that pressing. You get a lot of control over your schedule. I can't think of things Wills & Estates-specific that I really dislike. The things I don't like are probably common across practice areas (e.g. dealing with difficult clients, billing issues, etc.) but those aren't especially common in this area (or at least not in my practice). I like most my clients, I rarely get stiffed, and the work isn't that stressful (on the solicitor side anyway).

4. There's soft demand right now for newish calls and slightly more significant demand for junior to mid-level calls in Ontario at the moment. It's a growth area and not really market-dependant (death and taxes and all that). It's an all-round solid area to get into as far as all that goes, IMO.

5. People who practice Wills & Estates in a significant way often practice at least some real estate as well (which I do). Some will also do corporate/commercial (which I don't). These three areas all complement each other. Then there are lawyers who draft Wills in a small way. These lawyers are fairly diverse in their main practice areas (family, criminal, all sorts), but I tend to take a fairly dim view of a lot of those lawyers. Some lawyers who do Wills & Estates may also do some estate litigation, although this crossover is not so common as estate litigation has grown into its own niche area.

Hello Mountebank,

Thank you so much for your detailed response. It definitely gives me a lot to think about especially in terms of trying to gain experience in the practice area and taking more relevant courses. Thanks once again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MOL
  • Lawyer
6 hours ago, Mountebank said:

I think that would depend on the Estate. If you'll be needing to prepare formal or at least fulsome accounts, then I'd say yes. Otherwise, just do the Excel thing. 

Cheers. First meeting with lawyer for estate tomorrow, will likely have a better idea then what will be involved.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
19 minutes ago, MOL said:

Cheers. First meeting with lawyer for estate tomorrow, will likely have a better idea then what will be involved.

Wow. Insulted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MOL
  • Lawyer

I tried calling but you were out on your boat.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
22 minutes ago, MOL said:

I tried calling but you were out on your boat.....

It's a sailing yacht. Boats are for tradesmen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MOL
  • Lawyer

I am actually licensed for a trade. Keep yer fancy yacht, boat will do me just fine thank you, just fine......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Darwinter
  • Articling Student

Hi Mountebank! I was wondering what you think of the TEP designation. Do you think it's worth it? Would you consider it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer
7 hours ago, Darwinter said:

Hi Mountebank! I was wondering what you think of the TEP designation. Do you think it's worth it? Would you consider it?

I think it depends on your reasons why. There are some employers that like to see it on a CV, but most Wills & Estates lawyers don't have it.

I did enroll, but ultimately found that it took up too much of my time so I've kind of put it on hold for now as it's hard to see the benefit for a sole practitioner like me.

That said, the course materials are quite good so it could be worthwhile for someone looking for a refresher or to advance their knowledge.

Also, maybe it'll become more valuable after this year what with the LSO doing away with the certified specialist designation (for reasons known only unto the almighty).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Darwinter
  • Articling Student
On 5/27/2022 at 3:24 AM, Mountebank said:

I think it depends on your reasons why. There are some employers that like to see it on a CV, but most Wills & Estates lawyers don't have it.

I did enroll, but ultimately found that it took up too much of my time so I've kind of put it on hold for now as it's hard to see the benefit for a sole practitioner like me.

That said, the course materials are quite good so it could be worthwhile for someone looking for a refresher or to advance their knowledge.

Also, maybe it'll become more valuable after this year what with the LSO doing away with the certified specialist designation (for reasons known only unto the almighty).

Thank you! I was wondering if the materials were actually helpful. My main (maybe only) reason for doing it is just to expand my knowledge in the area. I also would have the courses covered so it would only cost me the time to do it really. 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
ZukoJD
  • Law Student

It seems to me that people are sleeping on wills and estates right now, particularly estates litigation. I hardly hear anyone discussing this as a potential career path though it seems that with our aging population demand will be incredibly high. 
 

Am I missing something? Are there actually lots of people positioning themselves to take advantage of this area or is it still set to be underserved? 
 

I’ve had the opportunity to work a bit in this area and I find it interesting, and could see myself having a go of it as a solo down the road. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hiccups
  • Lawyer
14 minutes ago, ZukoJD said:

It seems to me that people are sleeping on wills and estates right now, particularly estates litigation. I hardly hear anyone discussing this as a potential career path though it seems that with our aging population demand will be incredibly high. 
 

Am I missing something? Are there actually lots of people positioning themselves to take advantage of this area or is it still set to be underserved? 
 

I’ve had the opportunity to work a bit in this area and I find it interesting, and could see myself having a go of it as a solo down the road. 

My understanding is that estate litigation vary significantly between provinces. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ZukoJD
  • Law Student
37 minutes ago, hiccups said:

My understanding is that estate litigation vary significantly between provinces. 

You’re correct. Each province has its own legislation with some significant differences.

Edited by ZukoJD
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lawstudents20202020
  • Lawyer
51 minutes ago, ZukoJD said:

It seems to me that people are sleeping on wills and estates right now, particularly estates litigation. I hardly hear anyone discussing this as a potential career path though it seems that with our aging population demand will be incredibly high. 
 

Am I missing something? Are there actually lots of people positioning themselves to take advantage of this area or is it still set to be underserved? 
 

I’ve had the opportunity to work a bit in this area and I find it interesting, and could see myself having a go of it as a solo down the road. 

In BC PI lawyers are flocking to it. I do a bit of it and if you're into equity and trusts it can be incredibly interesting. 

I do think people underestimate the emotional toll it can take. The common joke is that it's family law with one less witness and having done both, there is some truth to that. 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mountebank
  • Lawyer

In Ontario, it's a growth area that is underserved. However, the interest in the area is certainly growing and I'm seeing more people moving into it.

And yes, estate litigation is exhausting.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By accessing this website, you agree to abide by our Terms of Use. YOU EXPRESSLY ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOU WILL NOT CONSTRUE ANY POST ON THIS WEBSITE AS PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE EVEN IF SUCH POST IS MADE BY A PERSON CLAIMING TO BE A LAWYER. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.