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What Is Estate Planning
Planning for the inevitable can be an extremely challenging and daunting process, especially if you lack any legal background. You know what your assets are and who you want to leave them to in case something happens to you, but doing it is not as easy as writing down a list of names and items. It would help if you worked with a legal professional to ensure your estate plan is valid, up-to-date, and reflects your wishes.
An estate plan is a specialized legal document that describes how you want your assets to be divided upon your death. Having a written estate plan is essential because courts do not recognize oral statements related to your property and other assets made at the time of your death.
What an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do for You
Estate planning attorneys, also known as probate attorneys, will and living trust attorneys, or estate law attorneys, are licensed law professionals who have a thorough understanding of state and federal laws that affect how your estate is valued, taxed, inventoried, and dispersed after your death. You can turn to an estate law attorney to draw up will and trust paperwork, power of attorney, and other specialized documents.
When it comes to estate planning, some attorneys charge a flat fee to craft binding legal documents, such as durable power of attorney and wills, but you can also hire them on an hourly basis to help with estate matters. These can include acting on your behalf in case of disputes and ensuring that your will is carried out as planned.
You can also turn to an estate planning lawyer if you need guidance with power of attorney over the estate of a recently deceased person. When that happens, you will most likely enter a probate process. This is the legal procedure for transferring the estate of a deceased person to his or her named heirs and beneficiaries. Going through probate can be a very lengthy and extremely public process, and having an attorney by your side can speed things up and protect you from scrutiny as much as possible.
In some cases, the process of probate court can be avoided altogether, but it depends on the deceased’s estate and the assets inside. Either way, it’s recommended that you seek legal help with such matters.
Using an estate attorney to plan how your assets will be distributed after your death can potentially save your beneficiaries a lot of headaches and money. There are many do-it-yourself forms you can find online, but your state’s court system may not recognize it as an official document. Even if the court recognizes your estate plan, you risk having missed some important documents that can cause delays and additional costs.
When planning your will and estate plan, you might want to turn to a an estate attorney if you’re in any of the following (or similar) situations:
You are recently divorced
You are in a second (or later) marriage
You have minor children
You don’t have any children
You own one or more businesses
You own real estate in different states
You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
You recently lost a spouse or another family member
You own a taxable estate for state or federal estate tax purposes
You have substantial assets in IRAs or 401(k)s
Frequently Asked Questions
In that case, your state’s laws of descent and distribution determine who will receive your property and assets by default. Although laws vary from state to state, the distribution typically goes to your spouse and children.
Although there isn’t a straight answer here, it is generally good to have a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Health Care Proxy by or around the age of 30 years old. Whether you are married, have children, or are single, it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected.
Legal Chiefs lets you access a broad network of estate planning lawyers who handle both standard and complex will and trust cases, as well as estate plans.