We have all heard stories about family infighting and expensive probate court proceedings following a loved one’s death. An estate planning attorney can help you avoid these pitfalls by making fundamental decisions about who gets what and when they get it.
An estate planning lawyer specializes in federal and state laws related to wills, trusts, and probate. They can review your situation and create or update a plan that reflects your wishes.
You Have Assets
Estate planning aims to determine what should happen to your assets and property after you die. An attorney can help you create an effective plan and minimize taxes. They can also help you establish trusts, which protect your assets from creditors.
A well-made plan will ensure that your heirs receive what you want them to, not the default state rules that could result in family fights. This will also avoid costly and lengthy probate court proceedings.
In addition, an attorney can create plans to protect your business from creditors and other problems arising after your death. They can also set up special types of trusts that will allow loved ones to continue to receive government benefits without losing their inheritance.
You Have Children
While young parents typically don’t need much more than basic estate planning documentation, it’s important to consider naming guardians for children. If you die and leave your children without a designated guardian, the court could put them into foster care until it finds someone willing to take on the responsibility.
An attorney can help you ensure your will includes a guardian while also setting up trusts that ensure your children receive their inheritance in a way that won’t jeopardize public benefits or cause them to lose access to tax breaks. This helps avoid family disputes over who gets what. A lawyer specializing in estate planning will welcome your questions, explain things clearly, and make you comfortable. This can save you a lot of stress.
You Have Special Needs
An estate plan can help you control who receives what and when. It also helps you and your heirs pay less in taxes, fees, and costs. A lawyer with experience in drafting and executing estate plans will be able to eliminate the strain that is often felt by families when they have to rewrite their documents because of changes in family or financial circumstances.
A comprehensive estate plan should include the following:
- A revocable living trust.
- A healthcare power of attorney.
- A durable financial power of attorney.
It should also contain a special or supplemental needs trust (SNT) or self-settled special needs trust (SSTN). These trusts allow disabled individuals to inherit assets without jeopardizing government benefits like Medicaid and SSI. They can be stand-alone trusts or sub-trusts within an existing living trust.
You Want to Avoid Probate
Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone passes away and involves:
- Determining the value of their estate.
- Paying any final bills and taxes.
- Distributing the estate to beneficiaries.
Probate can be expensive in terms of lawyers, court fees, and time and hassle for loved ones.
Avoiding probate is one of the most popular reasons people seek out an estate planning attorney. It is possible to eliminate probate by naming beneficiaries on assets like life insurance policies and joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or putting items into a Living Trust.
Trusts can also protect heirs from creditor attacks, ensure government benefits for special needs family members are not lost, and reduce taxes. A good estate planning lawyer can help you choose the right type of trust for your goals.
You Want to Protect Your Assets
An estate plan can help you safeguard your property from various potential claims from creditors, litigants, and other parties seeking to claim it. This includes protecting it during life and after death.
It would be best if you established a financial trust as part of your estate plan to minimize taxes, guard against bad heirs who cannot manage money, or shield assets from debt collectors and nursing homes. An estate planning lawyer can help you choose the right trust for your needs.
A good estate plan can also make it easier for your family members to transfer ownership of your belongings after your death without the time, expense, and potential for conflict in a court battle. You can use your assets to support a cause that matters to you or ensure that your loved ones receive what you worked hard to leave them.