Estate Planning Paralegal



An estate planning paralegal enjoys a less demanding schedule than say a litigation paralegal. Both positions will require specific aptitudes and skills, but estate planning is not quite as frenzied as a paralegal preparing for trial.

That’s a benefit of working in estate planning. You’ll enjoy a fair amount of responsibility but at a less stressful pace.

Typically an estate planning paralegal supports attorneys handling estate planning, trusts and wealth transfer. They are autonomous and exist within their own practice group.

Desired Skills

Candidates who want to gain access to this specialty ideally are empathetic. Certainly this area of law demands sympathy and understanding given that you will encounter situations where a spouse, partner or child has passed away.

These kinds of life events may impact one's estate.

Of course, too, an estate paralegal also demonstrates the highest level of service to a sophisticated clientele. You’ll manage multi-million dollar estates for clients who expect only the best service you have to offer.

And, you'll find law offices prize professionalism and teamwork. They have to. Everyone needs to get along so the work gets done efficiently, seamlessly. The best prospective employee works well with attorneys, co-workers, clients, and the courts.

You’ll also need to work independently and prioritize multiple projects since there will be new matters opened and old ones to close out. It’s therefore essential to be keenly organized to effectively manage copious calendar deadlines and client documents.

What Type of Work Will You Do?

Some duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Probate and trust administration, including meeting with clients, trustees and family members;
  • communicating with beneficiaries;
  • preparing estate and gift tax returns;
  • assisting in IRS audit reviews;
  • reviewing deed, title and appraisal reports;
  • processing asset information requests;
  • reviewing bank statements;
  • notarizing documents;
  • drafting correspondence and legal documents; and,
  • organizing and maintaining client files.

The above is merely a sample of the expectations a law office might have. There are other responsibilities you’ll have exposure to depending on the size of the firm you work for.

The smaller the office the more work you’ll manage. That’s not to say you’ll slide through projects at bigger firms, but you’re likely to have staff support (e.g., someone to make copies, run postage, type transmittals).

Experience Level

As an estate planning paralegal you'll enjoy a rewarding career that includes a good salary, potential bonuses and generous benefits.

It seems the experience level generally required is two to five years of supporting estate planning attorneys.

You’ll also find a bachelor's degree and paralegal certificate or equivalent is needed for consideration of minimum qualifications.

Could you still get a position without a bachelor’s or a paralegal certificate?

Yes.

But those opportunities are less available than those requiring specific educational achievements.

As a paralegal you must be extremely detail-oriented and it’s no different for estate planning legal assistants. They must possess excellent math and writing skills. It would also serve you well to gain intermediate knowledge of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel since these programs are widely used in this particular specialty.

In addition, you’ll need knowledge of Microsoft Outlook, iManage, Adobe Acrobat, MacPac, and Interaction as well as judicial council forms and good Internet research skills.

Estate planning paralegals have unique skills and are required to utilize specific software and applications. These skills, honed over time, provide you with tremendous opportunity for growing responsibility and increased salary potential.

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