Estate planning attorneys are licensed professional lawyers with experience and knowledge in the area of law that governs your estate and how it will be inventoried, valued, dispersed, and taxed after you pass away. These professionals can help you create a plan that will provide for your loved ones and ensure that your financial and legal responsibilities are fulfilled, even after you are no longer able to fulfill them. Estate planning attorneys have studied the state and federal laws that pertain to all issues of estate planning and can give you knowledgeable legal advice and representation in all matters pertaining to estate planning.
What Kinds of Things Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help With?
Experienced and skilled estate planning attorneys will be able to help you with any aspect of creating your estate plan. Here is a partial list of the specific topics that estate planning attorneys typically assist clients with:
- Creating a will
- Establishing power of attorney and medical power of attorney
- Designating beneficiaries
- Setting up and administering trusts
- Suggesting ways to minimize tax burdens
- Helping to avoid the probate process
- Drafting a living will or advance directive for healthcare
- Finding ways to protect assets
- Drafting HIPAA authorizations
- Organizing and arranging the transfer of assets to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries
- Handling life insurance policies, retirement plans, and charitable contributions
- Making sure your questions about your estate plan are answered
Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help with Probate?
While estate planning is a process that happens during life and probate is a process that happens after death, estate planning attorneys and probate attorneys are working in very similar areas of law. Most often, law firms with a focus on estate planning will also have attorneys on staff who can help with the probate process, or even with probate litigation, should that become necessary.
Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help Me Create a Plan to Care for My Special Needs Family Member?
When considering the plans that must be in place to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of in the unfortunate event of your death, at the top of the list are plans for any special needs family members who depend on you for their care or financial support, or both. These are some of the most vulnerable dependents we have, and uncertainty about what will happen to them when we are unable to care for them can be incredibly stressful. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you set up what is called a special needs trust to ensure that your vulnerable family member will be taken care of. Typically, a special needs trust will name a trustee who will be in charge of managing the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary (your special need family member). This will allow the beneficiary to access the assets in the trust with the added safety measure of the trustee’s best judgment. Special needs trusts must be carefully constructed so as not to jeopardize any government benefits your family member may be receiving. A special needs trust can be set up as a stand-alone trust, but it can also be set up as a component of a trust-based estate plan. Talk to one of our experienced estate planning attorneys to see if a special needs trust might be right for your family.
I’m Not Wealthy. Do I Still Need Estate Planning?
The term “estate” can conjure up images of yachts and mansions, but the term simply means all of the property and assets that you own at the time of your death. You may not be wealthy, but chances are you may own a home, a car, or other property of some value, and you may have retirement accounts or life insurance policies. You have worked hard to earn what you have, and whether it is a little or a lot, you would like your loved ones to benefit from it as much as possible when you are gone. Furthermore, the way you make your estate plan can either increase or decrease the hassle your loved ones experience, and so you will want to ensure that you have good advice from an experienced estate planning attorney who gets to know your needs and then helps you build a strong estate plan. Estate planning involves other legal considerations, as well—not just property and assets. For example, who will make legal and financial decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself? Who will direct your medical care if you are unconscious, or unable to communicate? These are issues that can be addressed by estate planning, in addition to the usual inheritance issues we associate with the process. Call our office today to begin planning for the future.