How a Lawyer Can Assist You With Estate Planning

An estate attorney can help you determine who should administer your estate and what should be done with your assets. This includes identifying and inventorying property, designating beneficiaries (for example on life insurance policies and retirement accounts) and determining strategies to avoid probate.

A good estate planning lawyer can help you avoid infighting among your heirs by arranging a fair division of assets. They can also ensure that all legal requirements are met.

Create a Last Will & Testament

A will is a legal document that records how an individual wants their property and personal belongings distributed after they die. It also names an executor and specifies how outstanding debts will be paid. A lawyer can help create a will that will meet all the legal requirements of your state.

It should identify all your assets including real and personal property, as well as digital assets (like online accounts). It must name beneficiaries for each category of asset and designate a guardian for children. It should also specify a backup executor (in case your first choice can’t serve).

An attorney who specializes in estate planning will be familiar with all of the federal and state laws related to these documents. They will charge a fee for their services that can be either a flat or hourly rate.

Create a Durable Power of Attorney

Estate planning is a difficult topic and bringing up conversations with the people you love about end-of-life issues can feel uncomfortable. It is crucial, however, to ensure that the nuances of your situation are considered and addressed.

A durable power of attorney (POA) for finances allows you to entrust the management of your assets to a person of your choice. Having this document in place will avoid the need for your family to seek court intervention to handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.

A lawyer can help you draft a powerful POA that is in line with your goals. For example, you may want to authorize your agent-in-fact to make gifts to beneficiaries on your behalf as part of your overall estate plan. Your lawyer can advise on how this is best accomplished without exposing your estate to unnecessary taxes or unintended consequences.

Create a Health Care Directive

Put your end-of-life health care preferences in writing. These documents, also known as advance directives, are a powerful way to identify who should make decisions for you when you aren’t able to speak for yourself.

A health care directive allows you to specify your choices regarding medical treatment in the event of a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. It can include instructions for do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, organ and tissue donation and specific wishes regarding end-of-life health care.

Your attorney can help you complete advance directive forms. You can register these documents online with your state’s registry to ensure authorized health care providers have quick access to them in an emergency. It is a good idea to give copies to family, your agent and other people who might need them. Make sure you update them as your preferences change.

Create a Living Will

Gold Coast estate lawyers that get you a result in estate planning can help ensure that your assets will be distributed to the people you want to receive them. They can also help you minimize state and federal taxes.

Your estate plan will also contain a living will (also called an advance directive) that expresses your wishes regarding end-of-life care if you cannot communicate them yourself. A living will should be given to your health care agent and placed with your medical records.

A lawyer can assist you with drafting your documents and explaining the formalities required for each one. They can also help you store them in a safe place so that they are readily available when needed. Having a proper estate plan in place will give your family peace of mind. It will also save them money in the form of reduced taxes, fees and court costs.

Create a Trust

A lawyer can help you create and administer a trust to keep your property and assets secure after you die. These can be a great tool for avoiding estate and inheritance taxes, and they also give you more control over how your assets are allocated to beneficiaries (i.e., your legal heirs).

For example, you can set up specific trusts to ensure that Beth gets your collection of antique jewelry and John receives your grandfather’s stamp collection. There are also special trusts that can be created to protect the inheritance of a disabled beneficiary without affecting his or her ability to qualify for public benefits.

A lawyer can help you make a list of all your property and assets, then determine who will be designated as beneficiaries. This is especially important if you have young children.

Create a Living Trust Agreement

While some people use prepared forms or kits to establish a living trust, this process requires an estate attorney to review and evaluate the documents. Such a review can help avoid issues such as state and federal estate taxes, asset protection and Medicaid planning.

During the trust drafting process, you must provide your lawyer with a list of your assets and their values. This includes any property you own that may require a transfer of title, as well as life insurance policies and other investments.

Estate attorneys either charge an hourly rate or a flat fee. Some also require a retainer that is paid upfront to cover the expected cost of the work. Retainers vary by lawyer and firm. The attorney’s fees should be clearly explained to you before the retainer is applied. This allows you to compare rates between attorneys.

Create a Charitable Remainder Trust

Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) are an irrevocable means to transfer assets to charity and potentially receive a stream of income for yourself or another beneficiary. This income is often tax-exempt, depending on whether a unitrust or an annuity trust is used.

A CRT can be beneficial if you wish to disinherit your immediate family members but need to pass on certain assets to them, such as real estate and complex investments. These trusts can also help reduce estate and inheritance taxes.

A lawyer can assist you with setting up a CRT and establishing its terms, as well as helping to minimize any taxes. An attorney may charge an hourly rate or a flat fee to perform these services. A flat fee usually provides you with more clarity up front. This can be a benefit in situations where you need to plan ahead and are concerned about how much time the process will take.

Create a Living Trust Agreement with a Charitable Remainder Trust

An estate planning lawyer helps you create legal documents that reflect your wishes about what should happen with your assets when you die. They also help you avoid unnecessary costs and taxes.

An experienced attorney can make the process much less stressful. They will be able to answer any questions you have about how state and federal laws pertain to your case. They will work with you to ensure your estate plan is up-to-date and addresses any significant life changes such as marriages, divorces, births, or illnesses.

When choosing an estate planning attorney, ask friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. Also, check if your employer has a legal insurance benefit that connects you with attorneys for low monthly fees. You should look for an attorney who puts you at ease, as you will be sharing a great deal of personal information.

Create a Living Trust Agreement with a Charitable Lead Trust

A charitable lead trust (CLT) allows donors to reduce transfer taxes by transferring assets to charity for a period of years. The trust then passes the remaining amount to heirs, typically family members. It is an excellent option for people with moderate to large taxable estates.

A CLT can be established during life or at death, and it may be set up as a grantor trust or nongrantor trust. A lawyer should create the trust agreement and draft appropriate documents, including a list of the beneficiaries, trustees, and payment schedule.

An experienced estate planning attorney should be able to answer any questions that you have about the process and provide you with guidance regarding state and federal law. The attorney should also be able to communicate clearly so that you feel comfortable discussing personal and sensitive details with them.