Reasons to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer
You may need to enlist the help of an estate planning lawyer because:
Certain estate planning laws are very complex.
No two estate plans are alike, so you need a lawyer to custom design your estate plan.
Do-it-yourself estate planning websites are seriously flawed.
What is the difference between probate and estate planning?
Probate is the legal process in which a court distributes a deceased person’s assets to the person’s heirs. Estate planning is the process where a living person determines how his assets will be distributed after he dies. In last week’s post, I explained when you need a probate lawyer. In this post, I will explain why you need an estate planning lawyer.
The Bible says, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children” (Proverbs (13:22). From this verse, we see that estate planning is a sound Biblical concept. You may be wondering: Do I need an attorney to plan my estate, or should I do it myself?
Why you should use an attorney to plan your estate:
1. Certain estate laws are very complex
You likely won’t understand all of the laws relevant to planning your estate. If you overlook an important law, your property could end up being distributed to someone you don’t want to inherit it.
For example, if you die without a will, your property will be subject to the law of intestate succession. The law of intestate succession specifies that certain relatives have a right to inherit a specified percentage of your property if you die without a will. These may not be the relatives that you would like to inherit your property. Also, the estate planning laws change frequently. For example, if your estate is worth less than a certain amount, your estate will not be subject to the estate tax. But, Congress frequently changes the threshold amount that is required for the estate tax to kick in. You need a lawyer that knows what the current laws are, so that your estate plan can be legally sound under current law.
Also, if you own property in more than one state, the laws of multiple states can apply to the distribution of your estate. You may need to consult lawyers in several states, to determine which estate planning option is right for you in each state.
2. No two estate plans are ever alike, so you need a lawyer to custom design an estate plan that fits your needs
For example, many clients ask, “Do I need a will or a trust?” The answer is different for every client. It’s also different for every client in regards to which provisions should go into a will or a trust. Other clients ask, “Should I place my property in joint tenancy with right of survivorship?” Again, some should, and others shouldn’t.
You need a lawyer, who can ask questions about your interests, needs, and desires, and see what is best for you.
3. Do-it-yourself estate planning websites are seriously flawed
There are many websites that claim they can generate an estate plan for you, if you type in data. However, many of these estate planning websites are seriously flawed, and you cannot rely on these sites to produce a good estate plan. In my post, “Are online wills any good?” I discuss the problems with online will-generating websites. These same criticisms apply to websites that claim to produce trusts or other types of estate planning documents.
As I pointed out above, no two estate plans are alike. But, automated estate-planning software generates an estate plan based on data that you type in. Because no two estate plans are alike, a computer program simply cannot plan an estate the way a human can. Because every estate plan is different, there will never be technology sufficient to generate a program that contains enough options to create a satisfactory estate plan for every person.
A computer program cannot read your desires or your emotions. A human can, though. In designing your estate plan, your emotions and feelings are as important as the cold, hard data that you enter into a computer.
You may need to work with other professionals as well
Many people, when they plan their estates, work with multiple professionals – they may, for example, use a financial planner to handle the financial side of their estate plan, and use a lawyer to handle the legal details.
The types of professionals you need will vary, depending on your estate. It is possible that you will not need any professionals other than a lawyer. However, because there are legal details involved in every estate plan, you should use a lawyer for any estate planning.
How much does an estate planning attorney cost?
If your estate plan is like most estate plans, a competent attorney will be able to prepare your estate plan for a few hundred dollars. While this may be a bit expensive, the cost of a well-crafted estate plan is almost always cheaper than the cost your heirs will have to incur to fix a poorly crafted estate plan. If you have heirs who fight each other in a lawsuit over the settlement of your estate, they will almost certainly have to spend many thousands of dollars.
The Persaud Law Office has assisted many clients with estate planning, and we can help you. Your first consultation will be free; contact us today.