When Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will or Trust? Staff Profile Picture
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Creating wills and trusts within estate planning is critical to securing and distributing assets according to your desires. Yet, statistics show that many people in the United States still need to engage in comprehensive estate planning. According to a 2023 survey, two out of three American adults don't have a will. Of the Americans who don't have a will, 15% say they don't know how to begin, while 7% feel the process is too complicated. Fortunately, estate planning attorneys are available to streamline the process and make it easy to secure assets. 

In this article, we examine the compelling reasons why seeking the guidance of a lawyer for estate planning is essential. From minimizing tax implications and avoiding probate complications to ensuring proper guardianship for minor children, a lawyer specializing in estate planning brings expertise and knowledge to navigate the intricacies of the process.  

9 Common Reasons Folks Need an Estate Planning Attorney

When it comes to estate planning, enlisting the services of an experienced attorney is crucial. The complexities and legal intricacies in safeguarding your assets and ensuring your wishes are upheld demand professional expertise. The following list offers the nine most common reasons people need an estate planning attorney by their side.

1. Creating a Will

An estate planning attorney can help individuals draft a legally binding will, ensuring their assets are distributed according to their wishes after death. Attorneys carefully analyze the person's assets, debts, and personal circumstances to develop a comprehensive plan for the distribution of their estate. The attorney will ensure that the will includes all necessary provisions, such as appointing an executor to carry out the individual's wishes and outlining any specific instructions for the distribution of assets. 

With their knowledge of state laws and regulations, an estate planning attorney can guarantee that the will is properly executed and valid. By engaging an attorney’s unique expertise in creating a will, people can have peace of mind that their assets will be distributed how they would like, potentially avoiding family disputes and the complications of intestacy.

2. Establishing Trusts

An experienced estate planning attorney can assess their client’s financial situation, goals, and objectives to determine the most appropriate type of trust to establish. They will explain the options available, including revocable and irrevocable trusts, living trusts, testamentary trusts, or special needs trusts, and guide their client in selecting the one that best suits their needs. 

The attorney will then assist in drafting the trust agreement, which outlines the terms and conditions of the trust, including the designated beneficiaries, the assets to be included, and any specific instructions for their distribution. They can explain the necessary steps for their client's particular needs, such as changing ownership titles or beneficiary designations, to ensure that the assets are appropriately placed within the trust.

3. Naming Guardians for Minor Children

By working with an estate planning attorney, parents can ensure that their wishes for the care and upbringing of their minor children are legally documented, providing peace of mind that their children will be cared for by trusted individuals if the unforeseen happens. 

Attorneys in this field understand the importance of this decision. They can guide parents through the process by discussing the criteria that should be considered when selecting potential guardians, such as their values, parenting style, and ability to care for the children's needs. An estate planning attorney can help their client draft legal documents, like a will or a separate guardianship designation, to name the chosen guardians officially. 

4. Designating Powers of Attorney

An estate planning attorney can help individuals establish powers of attorney that protect their interests and provide a clear framework for decision-making in case of their incapacity. These attorneys are well-versed in the significance of having trusted individuals appointed to make crucial decisions on behalf of someone if they are rendered incapable of making decisions. They can help explain the different types of powers of attorney, including financial and healthcare.

The attorney will work closely with their client to understand their specific needs and preferences and can help draft the necessary legal documents to ensure that the powers of attorney accurately reflect the person's wishes. 

5. Minimizing Estate Taxes

Under the guidance of an estate planning attorney, people can implement effective strategies to minimize estate taxes, therefore preserving more of their wealth for their intended beneficiaries and potentially achieving philanthropic goals. The attorney will assess the person's financial situation and goals and then provide guidance on various strategies to minimize the tax burden. 

Some options include gifting strategies, where assets are transferred to beneficiaries during the individual's lifetime, utilizing the annual gift tax exclusion and lifetime gift tax exemption. The attorney can explain these strategies' limits, rules, and potential tax implications. 

6. Planning for Business Succession

Regarding estate planning, business owners have unique needs that can appear incredibly daunting at the outset. By consulting with an estate planning attorney, entrepreneurs can navigate the complexities of succession and create a plan that preserves the value of their business, protects their interests, and facilitates a seamless transfer of ownership and management.

These attorneys emphasize the value of ensuring a smooth transition of ownership and management, whether due to retirement, death, or incapacity. They work closely with their clients to understand their concerns and desired outcomes and help them meet their goals.

7. Planning for Long-Term Care

When considering estate planning, making provisions for long-term care takes precedence. Attorneys in this field understand the financial and legal considerations involved and can provide valuable guidance to ensure the best care for their clients. They will assess the individual's assets, income, and long-term care preferences to develop a comprehensive plan. This may involve setting up trusts, creating gift strategies, or exploring long-term care insurance options.

The attorney will also assist in drafting documents such as advance healthcare directives and powers of attorney, enabling the client to designate trusted individuals to make medical decisions on their behalf. 

8. Special Needs Planning

An estate planning attorney can assist clients with special needs planning by ensuring the long-term care and financial security of loved ones with disabilities. These attorneys can help establish special needs trusts designed to protect and manage assets for the benefit of the individual with special needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Additionally, the attorney can help designate a guardian or advocate for the person with special needs, guaranteeing their legal rights and best interests. They can assist in creating legal documents such as powers of attorney and healthcare directives to empower the designated guardian to make decisions on behalf of the individual when necessary.

9. Estate Administration

When it comes time for estate administration, an estate planning attorney can guide families through settling a loved one's affairs after their passing. They understand the legal and practical steps in administering an estate and can provide valuable support during this challenging time. The attorney will help the executor or personal representative understand their duties and responsibilities, ensuring compliance with the applicable laws and regulations. 

They can assist in gathering and valuing assets, preparing the necessary documents for probate, and navigating court proceedings if required. The attorney will also provide guidance in paying off debts, filing tax returns, and distributing assets to beneficiaries following the decedent's wishes as stated in their will or trust.

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

An estate planning attorney can provide invaluable assistance regarding the factors surrounding wills and trusts. They have the expertise to guide people through the complexities of estate planning, guaranteeing that their wishes are properly documented and legally sound. 

Whether drafting a will to outline the distribution of assets, establishing a trust to protect and manage assets, or providing advice on minimizing estate taxes, an estate planning attorney can provide comprehensive guidance tailored to their client’s specific needs.

To find a qualified estate planning attorney in your area, visit our lawyer directory, which is searchable by metro area. You can search by location and specialty, making it easier to find an estate planning attorney who can help navigate the intricacies of wills, trusts, and other essential aspects of estate planning.

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