What Does an Estate Attorney Do and Why Do You Need One?

What Does an Estate Attorney Do and Why Do You Need One?

Estate planning lawyer

Estate planning is an essential part of ensuring that your assets and affairs are managed according to your wishes after your death or incapacitation. However, the process can often feel overwhelming. This is where estate planning attorneys come in. They are professionals who guide you through the ins and outs of estate planning to ensure that your wishes are followed. But what exactly does an estate planning attorney do, and do you need one? Let’s break it down.

What is an Estate Attorney?

An estate attorney, also known as an estate planner or estate probate attorney, is a licensed lawyer who specializes in end-of-life planning. They are experts in the estate planning process and the laws that govern the transfer, disbursement, and taxation of estates.

What Do Estate Attorneys Do?

Estate planning attorneys work closely with their clients, as well as tax professionals and financial advisors, to create customized estate plans based on individual needs. Their services may include:

  • Preparing wills and other estate planning documents.
  • Identifying beneficiaries.
  • Establishing power of attorney.
  • Creating advanced healthcare directives and long-term care plans.
  • Determining the best type of trust for your needs.
  • Establishing trusts to protect and transfer assets.
  • Working with financial advisors to reduce estate tax burdens.
  • Finding ways to avoid the probate process.

Do You Need an Estate Attorney?

Working with an estate planning attorney can be invaluable as you navigate the estate planning process. They ensure that you have a comprehensive, legally binding plan that eliminates conflict, confusion, and undue emotional stress for your loved ones after your passing. Other benefits of working with an estate attorney include:

  • A customized plan tailored to your specific needs.
  • Access to legal advice from a specialist familiar with your situation.
  • Knowledge of laws that affect your estate plan.
  • Confidence that your decisions align with state and federal laws.
  • Guidance for your fiduciary, executor, and individuals with power of attorney.

Is Estate Planning Only for the Rich?

No, estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It is important for anyone who has personal belongings and wants them distributed according to their wishes. It is also crucial for individuals with dependents, such as minor children, loved ones with special needs, or aging parents.

How to Prepare for a Meeting with an Estate Attorney

Preparing for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are four steps to help you get ready for the process:

Step 1: Choose an Estate Attorney

Selecting the right estate planning attorney is crucial. Look for someone experienced in estate law, state and federal tax planning, and trust administration. Seek recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues, or check if your employer offers legal plan benefits that can connect you with experienced estate planning attorneys for a reasonable fee.

Step 2: Get Organized

Gather relevant documentation to provide a clear picture of your assets. Some documents you may need include:

  • Bank account statements.
  • Investment and brokerage account statements.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Deeds for real estate and timeshares.
  • Automobile and watercraft titles.
  • Birth and adoption certificates.
  • Business ownership and partnership interest documents.
  • Mortgage and loan documents.

Creating digital copies of these documents and storing them in the cloud can be helpful.

Step 3: Discuss Your Wishes with Your Family

Having conversations with your loved ones about your wishes can be uncomfortable but is crucial for building the foundation of your estate plan. Discuss topics such as who will manage your money, care for your children, act as your executor, and make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Step 4: Prepare Questions for Your Attorney

Before your meeting, prepare a list of questions to ask your estate planning attorney. Some questions to consider include:

  • What assets should be part of my estate?
  • What are the tax implications of my preferred estate plan?
  • How do you ensure my will is carried out correctly?
  • How long does the estate planning process take?
  • Where should my documents be stored?
  • How do you handle updates to my estate plan?

Make sure your attorney is approachable and provides answers that you understand.

FAQs

Q: Is estate planning only for the rich?
A: No, estate planning is important for anyone with personal belongings and dependents.

Conclusion

Estate planning is a crucial step to ensure that your assets and affairs are handled according to your wishes. An estate planning attorney can provide valuable guidance throughout the process, creating a customized plan that protects your loved ones and your assets. By preparing for your meeting and asking the right questions, you can ensure a smooth estate planning process and gain the peace of mind that comes with a comprehensive plan.