Just about any attorney can draw up a will, and in fact they all probably have wills on their software that are push button quick for most situations. The advantage of utilizing the skills of an estate planning attorney is the depth of knowledge that you are getting. Even if you only need a will, and nothing else, you may have a situation that some attorneys would miss, and yet the estate lawyer will pick up on.
It doesn’t take as much as you think to have issues that an estate planning attorney would need to be aware of. You could have a situation where a professional or a management type of person might have a home that is worth say, $400,000, a couple of cars worth $60,000, investments worth $100,000, a 401(k) worth $600,000 and odds and ends such as boats, and a house at the beach, worth another $200,000. Now you have an estate valued at $1,360,000.
That is not enough to be in the taxable arena for federal taxes, but there will probably some administration and probate costs. The second spousal death is where the Federal tax will kick in to the tune of somewhere in the $500,000 range.
So, in a case like this the estate planning attorney will draw up the wills with a marital and a non marital trust that will reduce the ultimate tax by about half, and initiate some gifting possibilities with some charitable remainder and Crummy trust ideas funded with life insurance to pay the taxes, which leaves the homes and hard assets intact without having to be liquidated.
An estate plan is not a one time deal either, as the canvas is always changing. So the next trait of a good estate attorney is to leave enough flexibility in the plan to be able to change with circumstances.
Depending upon the age of the parents, if there are small children under age 18 there will need to be a provision in case both parents are killed in a car wreck. Should that occur, all of the assets in the estate can go to an inter vivos trust through a pour over portion of the will, to be administered by a pre-appointed guardian that the family names. Of course an occurrence such as that changes the focus of the estate, as it will only have to be probated once to get to the kids.
So there you have some circumstances that the typical family lawyer may not have dealt with and would have to go back to his law books to look it up. The experience of the estate lawyer will prevail in the ability to look at a situation, and then tailor the best solution to the objectives of the family in accordance to the current law in the state where they live.
Once the paperwork is finished, the trusts are filed, and the life insurance, if any is needed, is issued, then everyone can relax and review the setup in a few years, or sooner if things change.