Find the Perfect Estate Planning Attorney For You
There is no substitute for an estate planning attorney if you want to preserve your assets as you navigate life’s twists and turns. Estate planning is a critical process that requires careful attention and expertise to ensure your wishes are carried out to the letter and your loved ones will be taken care of in the most efficient and beneficial way.
The following guide includes information on the role of an estate planning attorney, key components of an estate plan, and how to find the right attorney for your needs.
The Role of an Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning attorneys are legal professionals who help individuals and families create and implement comprehensive estate plans according to their outlined wishes, helping ensure you and your loved ones will be prepared for any circumstance, even the unexpected. An estate planning attorney’s expertise covers various areas of law, including property, tax, and probate law; they may act as an additional financial consultant for their clients, helping them to avoid overtaxation and preserve wealth.
Craig Associates, PC offers free estate planning seminars to help get your estate planning wheels turning and to get to know us better! You can also give us a call at (828) 258-2888 to decide if we are the right fit for you and your family.
Why Estate Planning is Important
Without a solid estate plan, how your assets are distributed will be determined by state intestacy laws—in which case your family may be the last to benefit, after the state and creditors have their way.
Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney
An estate planning attorney ensures proper documentation, offers objective advice, helps navigate complex family dynamics, and keeps your estate plan updated to reflect life changes. DIY estate-planning efforts are not likely to be 100% legally sound and may leave the future of your family’s finances in question.
Understanding Probate Law
Probate law involves administering an individual’s estate after their death. The process can cost your loved ones time and money finding professional assistance to represent them in court to obtain what is rightfully theirs and continue with their lives. An estate planning attorney will streamline and expedite the probate process.
Estate Planning Attorney vs. General Attorney
General attorneys have a broad understanding of the law; estate planning attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of estate planning law. An estate planning attorney will be invaluable in creating effective and tax-efficient estate plans that directly benefit you and your loved ones.
Components of a Comprehensive Estate Plan
An experienced estate planning attorney uses multiple components, each serving a specific purpose, to ensure your assets are distributed as you wish upon your death.
- Wills: A will is a legal document that outlines who gets what and when they get it.
- Trusts: Trusts manage and distribute assets, may avoid probate, and offer tax advantages.
- Power of Attorney (POA): A power of attorney document allows you to appoint someone to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf if you cannot.
- Advance Healthcare Directives: Advance healthcare directives specify your medical treatment preferences if you cannot make your own decisions.
- Beneficiary Designations: Beneficiary designations dictate who will receive certain assets, such as life insurance proceeds or retirement accounts, upon your death.
- Letter of Intent: A letter of intent provides personal instructions and wishes that may not be included in a will.
What to Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney
Key factors to consider when you look for an estate planning attorney include:
- Expertise. A reputable estate planning attorney will have extensive experience and knowledge in estate planning.
- Client Testimonials and past cases. Read client reviews and speak with references for insight into an estate planning attorney’s professionalism, expertise, and service quality.
- Fees and Service Packages. Each estate planning attorney may charge differently based on their fee structure, and understanding these fees can help you select an attorney that fits your budget. Tip: Register for a free estate planning seminar to get ahead of the game.
- Accessibility and Communication. Your estate planning attorney should be responsive and open to communication including promptly addressing any questions and concerns. It may be challenging to make decisions for when the unthinkable happens, and choosing an estate planning attorney you have a good rapport with will make discussing heavy topics easier.
How to Interview an Estate Planning Attorney
Consider interviewing potential candidates to see if they would be a good fit; here are some tips to help you sniff out the right estate planning attorney for your needs.
Preparing for Your First Meeting
Come prepared with a list of questions, your estate planning goals, and any existing estate planning documents. If you don’t have any of these, that’s ok! A good estate planning attorney knows this is new territory for many clients and will guide you through the process.
Key Questions to Ask
Ask about the attorney’s experience with clients with similar needs (whether you have modest or substantial assets), their knowledge of estate planning laws, document handling practices, communication style, and fee structure.
Red Flags to Watch For
Pass on potential candidates who want to give you a cookie-cutter plan without delving into your particulars, make unrealistic promises, or don’t clearly answer your questions. You should also not feel pressured into signing anything.
- Why choose us?
Why choose us?
As a retired, same-gender, married couple (including adult children for one of us) we went through a long search for the right legal experience to provide to us the advice and guidance we felt necessary for confidence with our estate planning. We are absolutely certain that Christopher Craig has been the right choice for us. After “test driving” other attorneys, we had almost given up finding someone who completely satisfied our search for the competence, experience, and ease of interaction that we fortunately found with Chris and his team. I highly recommend his expertise if you have similar needs for guidance through the maze of drawing up a trust to protect your estate and familyKen G. | Asheville, NC
Inheritance tax: Taxes owed on the estate of a deceased person.
Law firm: A business entity formed by one or more lawyers.
Intestacy rules: Laws that dictate how a deceased person’s estate is divided when they have not left a valid will.
Financial advisor: A professional who provides financial services to clients.
Estate administration: The process of managing and distributing a person’s property after death.
Business property relief: A type of inheritance tax relief for a business or shares within a business.
Prior consent: The informed agreement given by a patient before a healthcare intervention.
Simple estates: Estates that are straightforward to administer.
Blended hourly rate: A term used in legal billing to determine attorney’s fees.
Fidelity: The ethical principle of being faithful to agreements and promises.
Living will: A legal document that specifies what actions should be taken for a person’s health if they’re no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity.
Revocable living trust: A legal document that allows an individual to specify how their assets should be handled before and after their death.
Testamentary: Referring to matters of wills and testaments in end-of-life decisions and estate planning.
Attorney’s fees: Costs that are paid for legal services, often a part of discussions involving legal aspects of healthcare and estate planning.
Flat-rate: A pricing model where a fixed rate is charged.
End-of-life decisions: Choices related to the medical care, financial aspects, and estate distribution a person wishes to have towards the end of their life.
Life-insurance-policy: A contract with an insurance company that provides a monetary benefit upon the policyholder’s death.
Your Estate Plan
You will collaborate with your estate planning attorney as they work to understand your goals and concerns, provide you with different options, and guide you in making informed decisions.
Incorporating All Assets
Your estate planning attorney will help you ensure that all your assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property, are covered in your estate plan.
Reviewing and Adjusting Your Plan
Life is full of changes (including things outside your control), so plan to review and update your estate plan at least every few years to reflect changes in your personal circumstances (i.e., marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc.), assets, and/or accommodate for changes in estate tax laws.
The Probate Process and Your Estate Planning Attorney
Your estate planning attorney can guide executors (the person you name to fulfill your wishes) through the probate process to ensure all legal requirements are met.
Probate Court Proceedings
Probate court proceedings can be complex, making your estate planning attorney and their expertise invaluable in navigating these processes.
How Estate Planning Helps Simplify Probate
Effective estate planning can simplify the probate process, minimize estate taxes if applicable, and ensure your beneficiaries receive their full inheritances as quickly as possible.
Understanding Tax Implications in Estate Planning
There are potential tax implications in estate planning that you and your estate planning attorney should be aware of and plan for so your loved ones can maximally benefit from your accumulated assets. Your estate planning attorney will assess your situation and explain the difference between estate taxes and inheritance taxes and how these may apply to your situation.
Strategies to Minimize Estate Taxes
Your estate planning attorney can suggest strategies to minimize your estate tax liabilities, such as gifting, establishing trusts, or making charitable donations to create a win-win outcome for you and loved ones, bolstering your financial legacy. In contrast, unmanaged taxation will result in excessive money being handed over to the state on your death; the relatively low cost of estate planning is thus sure to save your family significant amounts of money.
Special Circumstances in Estate Planning
The right estate planning attorney will be able to implement tailored estate planning strategies to cover clients with these circumstances:
- Estate planning can ensure that minor children are taken care of by someone they trust if both parents pass away or become incapacitated.
- Blended families may have unique estate planning needs to ensure fair asset distribution and protect all family members’ interests, making an estate plan even more essential.
- Business owners may need specialized estate planning to ensure smooth business succession and minimize tax liabilities.
Find an Expert Estate Planning Attorney Near You
Choosing the right estate planning attorney can make the process smoother and more effective. For over a decade, the expert estate planning attorneys at Craig Associates, PC, have been helping North Carolina residents sleep better at night in knowing their assets and loved ones will be properly cared for.
If you are in the WNC area, let us help you secure your financial future—we’ll listen to your wishes then do all the heavy lifting. Call us at (828) 258-2888 to schedule a personal meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney today.