An estate planning attorney specializes in providing legal counsel to his clients in order to help them get their affairs in order and prepare for the misfortunate event of a mental disability or death. Most estate planning attorneys have years of experience and they continue their legal education in order to understand the needs of their clients better.
The job of an estate planning attorney is not limited to just making a will or testament. It may include the following:
- Draft living trusts
- Develop a plan in order to help their clients mitigate or avoid estate taxes
- Ensure that the assets and life savings of their client are safe after the client’s death
- Make sure the assets are safe from the beneficiary’s creditors after the client’s death
- Prepare powers of attorney and health care directives
- Arrange for someone to take care of your affairs in case you are mentally incapacitated
- Avoid conservatorship issues or guardianship in the event when you need someone else to look after your affairs
Why would you need an estate plan?
For many people, having a will in place usually makes it to the top of their to-do list. However, they fail to understand the importance of creating an estate plan which would ensure their peace of mind as well as the peace of mind of their family. An estate plan makes sure that their wishes are carried out as they want in the future.
In order to create your estate plan, it is important to get in touch with a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney. Take the time to find and hire an experienced estate planning attorney in your area who is known for the work he or she does. You would be surprised to know that attorneys with limited or no specific experience in estate planning will be willing to take on your case. These non-attorneys would be willing to sell you revocable trusts through “living trust mills.” Not choosing the right attorney at the right time would actually lead you to losing far more money in the long run that you would if you hire a qualified and experienced attorney the first time.
Hire a qualified estate planning attorney
A qualified estate planning attorney will have the experience and knowledge to assist you with your particular financial situation. This quality is particularly lacking in a general practitioner. It is advised that you look for someone who specializes in this particular area of law.
You should be able to discuss all the details with the attorney, including intimate details of your life so all your expectations and needs can be understood and met. An experienced attorney will also be up to date with the local laws, which is required for the court to approve your estate plan.
Follow these essential steps when making an estate plan
A little preparation before the estate plan can save your loved ones from a lot of stress and trouble later on when you won’t be around. These 5 steps are essential to ensure that your loved ones can continue with your legacy:
Think about what you want to happen – Do all the planning before contacting an attorney such as who should be making all the decisions if you fall ill or are injured, what life-sustaining measures do you want taken as you near the end of your life, who will take care of your children if you die before they turn 18 years, how should your estate be divided after your death and so on. You can think and ponder all these scenarios on your own as well as discuss them with your loved ones.
Create a plan – Once you have thought everything through, the next step is to discuss everything with your lawyer and create a plan. The estate plan will include your will, and will also have other essential documents. If your financial situation is straightforward, and you don’t have any spouse or kids, the will may be pretty straightforward. However, if you have various assets, and have children or spouse, then the plan will be complex. A qualified attorney will make sure that all the essential documents are complete, and that they are signed and stored in accordance with the local state laws. These documents will include wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.
Keep these estate planning documents safe – Once all the estate planning documents are created, organize them and keep them all together at a safe place. A waterproof safe at your home or a safe deposit box are good ideas. The original documents should be placed in a protected place which is accessible to your estate’s executor. Your attorney and executor should know where the original documents are stored. Copies of the original documents should be kept with your attorney just in case the original papers are lost or damaged. You can even keep electronic copies and save them digitally.
Discuss your estate plan with your loved ones – In order to avoid surprises later on, it is advised to discuss your estate plan with your loved ones. The executor of the plan should also be informed about their duties so they can carry out your plan as you intend to. Your loved ones should be informed about the location of important personal documents, including any medical and financial documents. If you have any specific requests that should be carried post-death, such as organ donation or funeral arrangements, let them be known to your loved ones. Also have them written down and documented. Such documents should be kept separate from your will and estate planning documents.
Review and update your estate plan regularly – Your estate plan will be affected by events in your life such as marriage, divorce, having children, switching jobs, change in your financial circumstances and so on. Your estate plan will also change according to your life changes. Review your wills and trusts with your attorney regularly.
How much would it cost you?
Experienced estate planning attorneys would charge a higher legal fee to create your estate plan. The attorney will also maintain and update the estate plan for you. Paying for a qualified attorney will save you a lot of money later on which you would have paid in the form of taxes and other court and legal fees if the estate plan was not created by a professional attorney in the first place. Planning ahead will not only give you peace of mind, but it will also save your loved ones from a lot of trouble when you die.