Don’t Do It Alone: Three Reasons to Hire an Attorney for Estate Planning
Because Americans can now take care of many of their legal needs from the comfort of their own homes through online services like Legal Zoom, it’s often tempting to consider a do-it-yourself approach to estate planning. However, just because you can create an estate plan on your own certainly doesn’t mean you should. Depending on your life situation and where you live, the estate planning process can be rather complex, requiring knowledge of many laws and situational factors that the majority of Americans simply do not have.
So, what are the benefits of working with an attorney to create an estate plan, and why should you partner with an attorney when drafting yours?
Your Estate Plan Will Cover All the Bases
Many people assume that an estate plan only comprises a will outlining how your assets will be dispersed among your family once you are gone. However, an estate plan generally involves much more than a will and includes financial, tax, medical, and business decisions as well. For instance, a comprehensive estate plan will include under what circumstances your assets can be distributed before your death, who will make health decisions for you if you become unable to care for yourself, how your debts will be paid, who will make legal decisions for you if you are no longer able to so, and much more. In addition, an attorney specializing in estate planning can help you prepare for the financial implications of dividing up your assets (e.g., what taxes will be imposed).
Your Assets Will Go Where You Want Them to Go
In the absence of a solid estate plan, your assets may end up going somewhere you didn’t expect—or to someone you didn’t expect. While many people think the state inherits a person’s assets when one dies without a will, that’s not the case: those assets are distributed to the person’s relatives, or heirs, based on what are called intestate succession rules. In this case, the court decides where your assets will go, and you will not be able to provide any input. When you work with an attorney to develop an estate plan, you can detail exactly how you want your assets to be dispersed, ensuring that your final wishes are fulfilled.
Your Estate Plan Will Hold Up in Court
After a person is severely incapacitated or dies, numerous people may come out of the woodwork. Sometimes these people simply want to benefit from the situation, while other times, family or friends may have been unaware of the person’s actual desires. Regardless of their intent, these types of individuals may challenge your estate plan in court, often leading to difficult, emotionally draining lawsuits. While these lawsuits can occur with any estate plan, they often arise from non-traditional situations, such as with same-sex marriages, step families, divorces, adoptions, and the like. An attorney with in-depth knowledge of estate planning and applicable state laws can ensure that your assets go where you want them to go even when your estate plan is challenged in court.
As this article suggests, there are many moving parts in the estate-planning process that are sometimes difficult to anticipate, which is why it is important to work with an attorney when you are ready to plan your future. Attorneys who specialize in estate planning have comprehensive knowledge of what should be included in a legally sound estate plan based on your individual circumstances and desires, which can prevent you and your loved ones from having to deal with issues related to your estate plan down the road.