Estate planning is something that happens while you are still alive, ideally while you are in good mental and physical health. At that time, you have the motivation and the ability to make long-term plans for your needs and the needs of your loved ones. Probate, on the other hand, is something that happens after your death, when your estate is being administered by the executor you named in your will. An estate planning lawyer, therefore, is there to help you make plans for the future, while a probate lawyer is there to help your loved ones tie up the loose ends of your estate after you are gone.

What Do Estate Planning Lawyers Do?

Estate planning lawyers work with you to make plans for the ways your affairs will be handled should you become incapacitated or die. An estate planning lawyer will help you write a will and create a trust that explains how your estate is to be distributed to the people you choose. A durable power of attorney is another estate planning document that this kind of lawyer will help you draft, to name a person to act as your legal and financial agent when you are unable to do so yourself. A medical power of attorney allows you to designate a trusted person to make your medical decisions if you cannot, and a HIPAA authorization will specify the people with whom you want your private medical information shared. All of these are in the practice area of an estate planning lawyer. Estate planning lawyers also help you to make sure that your heirs will get the most benefit from the assets you leave to them, and it can help you set up trusts to protect your assets and shield them against creditors.

What Do Probate Lawyers Do?

After you die, if you do not have a trust, your estate will most likely be subject to the probate process. This is a process by which the probate court oversees the administration of your estate. A probate lawyer can assist in dividing the assets in your estate among your heirs, administering your will, and paying any debts you left behind. If you have made a careful plan with an estate planning lawyer and have a valid will in place, probate can be a relatively easy process. If anyone contests the will, however, or if you die without one, probate can be very complicated and tedious, and a probate attorney can help your loved ones through the process. If you have gone the extra step to protect your family by creating a trust, probate may be avoided entirely.

When Should I Begin the Estate Planning Process?

While no one likes to think about a time when they might be unable to make decisions for themselves or care for their family, sometimes tragedy strikes when we least expect it. Having a solid estate plan in place can ensure that someone you trust will be handling your financial affairs and medical decisions . Estate Planning can ensure that your family will be taken care of when you are no longer able to look after them. It is never too soon to find the peace of mind that an effective estate plan can bring. Our estate planning attorneys are here to help.