What Do Estate Planning Attorneys Do and Do You Need One?
Although estate planning affects virtually everyone during their life and after it, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it. This misunderstanding extends to estate planning attorneys as well, to the point where many are unsure what it is they do and whether one is necessary.
What Is an Estate Planning Attorney?
Understanding what an estate planning attorney does requires understanding an estate plan. The term “estate” means all of your property. That is, everything in your name that can be passed on to someone else after you die. An estate plan, as you might guess, is the plan for what will happen to that property when you die or become incapacitated to the point where you can’t make decisions for yourself. If someone dies without an estate plan, their property is distributed among surviving relatives (or to the state, if there are none) according to the laws of intestacy.
Because someone dead or incapacitated can’t speak for themselves, many laws and safeguards are in place to prevent abuse. Estate planning attorneys specialize in this area of law and the documentation required to enable their client’s wishes. They primarily draft wills, trusts, and power of attorney forms that clearly express what the person wanted and hopefully reduce conflict among the surviving parties. Estate planning attorneys also work to minimize the tax consequences of passing along one’s estate.
Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
Not everyone needs an estate planning attorney, but many people could benefit significantly from consulting with one. There is no one-size-fits-all test to determine if you should talk to an estate planning attorney. However, there are several factors to consider that may be helpful.
Size and Complexity of the Estate
It should be no surprise that the greater the value of the estate, the greater the need for comprehensive estate planning. Larger estates generate more intense interest from survivors, potentially leading to conflict. Additionally, the tax consequences are often a bigger concern. Generally, the more complex estates and deceased person’s wishes require the expertise of an estate planning attorney.
Creating a Trust
Trusts are an excellent and versatile estate-planning tool that can help you care for your loved ones, establish your legacy, and even avoid estate taxes. However, they require careful planning and should be created with the help of an attorney.
Parents, especially single parents, can gain peace of mind by recording how they want their children cared for in the event they pass away before the children become adults. This can involve establishing a trust and perhaps designating someone to be a caregiver.
If you are an owner or partner in a business, a succession plan sets out who will be in charge and receive your interest in the company.
If you have a serious health condition (and even if you don’t), you should consider taking a moment to communicate what will happen if you pass away or if you become incapacitated. For example, if you are about to have major surgery, granting power of attorney and detailing your health directives can help your loved ones make decisions if there are complications.
Talk to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Creating a clear estate plan ensures your wishes are met after you’re gone and reduces uncertainty for your loved ones. Our team has years of experience creating estate plans that range from the basic to the extremely complex. Schedule a consultation today to learn how we can help you with your estate plan.