- Marla Roeser
Why Should I Work With an Estate Planning Attorney?
Creating an estate plan is like going to the dentist (no offense to my dentist friends!). You know you have to do it, but you put it off because something bad could be discovered, like a cavity. Still, you go because something even worse will happen if you do not.
Visiting an estate planning attorney is even more important because the stakes are higher. The consequences of failing to have an estate plan do not just affect you: they affect your loved ones, for whom you provide and protect.
So now that it is finally time to create an estate plan, how do you do it?
Your first thought may be to save money by writing your own will or using an online service. But once you consider how extensive your estate is (even if you do not consider yourself rich), you will realize that consulting an estate planning attorney is the best way to realize your wishes. Here are some of the best reasons.
When you tackle any project yourself instead of hiring an expert, you run the risk of making mistakes. Putting a hole in your roof or flooding your bathroom is bad, but failing to provide for your family is even worse.
You can avoid the following costly mistakes by hiring an estate planning attorney.
Failing to Consider the Impact of Taxes
We all know how taxes affect us in life, but taxes in death are much more complicated. Not only does the federal government have extensive, complicated rules about estate taxes, but some states will also take their own bite from the apple.
An expert can help you use the marital deduction to leave money and property to your spouse, for example, rather than naming other beneficiaries and exposing your estate to unnecessary taxes.
Creating an Inadequate Estate Plan
An attorney understands all of the elements of a complete estate plan and will bring up important issues that you may not have considered or even known about.
For example, you may want to donate to charity or help fund your grandchildren’s educations, but you may not know about the benefits of, and how to create, a grantor retained annuity trust to accomplish your plans.
You can also speak with your attorney about all of the money and property that make up your estate, including the following:
Your home and other real estate
Cash, stocks, and securities
Retirement plans, pensions, and annuities
Art, collections, and other prized possessions
Business ownership (whole or partial)
Estimating the value of these items is a good idea. You can keep track of your net worth and make sure that you are distributing your life savings fairly to your loved ones.
Your estate plan should include plans for who will take care of your children if something happens to you and their other legal parent. You can also specify if you want to donate your organs, as well as where and how you want your body to be buried or cremated in your estate plan.
Leaving out Important People
Have you ever seen someone win an Academy Award and forget to thank their spouse? It ends up being the talk of the ceremony. Similarly, without an experienced estate planning attorney, you may accidentally omit loved ones from your estate plan.
An estate planning attorney has experience in helping clients prepare for their families’ futures by asking the right questions to get a holistic picture of the client, their money and property, and their wishes. They will make sure that you include everyone and everything in your estate plan.
Failing to Update Your Will
Establishing a cooperative relationship with an estate planning attorney is important—you should not just meet with this person once and then file the estate plan away, never to be looked at again.
Although you do not need to visit the attorney as often as you see the dentist, there are several major life events that call for a visit to your estate planning attorney. These include:
the birth or adoption of a child,
a change in job status,
a change in a beneficiary, and
a change in the proposed guardian of a child.
Create a Customized Plan
An experienced estate planning attorney has worked with a variety of individuals and families. They should have a proven playbook of successful strategies, and they can make adaptations to meet your family’s specific needs.
Estate planning is multifaceted. It not only covers what will happen to your money and property when you die but also how your money, property, and you are treated during your life.
A comprehensive estate plan should include documents that can be used during your lifetime, such as medical and financial powers of attorney and an advance directive or living will. That way, you know that even if you can no longer make medical and financial decisions for yourself, someone you trust can do so for you.
Understand Federal and State Laws
Estate planning attorneys can keep your loved ones out of probate court by setting up a living trust that plans for and manages all of your money and property.
They also have their ears to the ground for changes to federal and state tax laws. This up-to-date knowledge allows them to structure your estate plan to avoid unnecessary tax liability.
A well-informed local estate planning attorney is important because certain states have their own estate and inheritance taxes. Your gift may fly under the federal tax radar, but the state tax collector may detect it.
Use Objectivity over Emotion
The final reason why an attorney is the best choice to plan your estate is objectivity. Thinking about your eventual passing can be an emotional experience, as you contemplate what your family would look like without you and how they will fare.
An attorney can help you make clear-headed decisions by providing wise counsel supported by the right legal documents. To find an estate planning attorney who believes in this philosophy, please use the search tool at the top of the page.