When it comes to estate planning, there is a lot to think about. While there are many different considerations involved, at the highest level, you can define estate planning as the process of making a plan for distributing your assets when you die.
Tasks an estate planning attorney can help with
Estate planning attorneys, also referred to as estate law attorneys or probate attorneys, are experienced and licensed law professionals with a thorough understanding of the state and federal laws that affect how your estate will be inventoried, valued, dispersed, and taxed after your death. In addition to educating you about the probate process, an estate planning attorney can assist you with the following tasks:
- Creating a will
- Designating your beneficiaries
- Establishing durable power of attorney and medical durable power of attorney
- Working with a financial professional to find ways to reduce and avoid estate tax when possible
- Finding ways to avoid the probate court process
- Setting up any trusts you might need to protect your assets, both for your own benefit during your lifetime in the event of incapacity, and for the benefit of your beneficiaries after your death
Do I need an estate planning attorney?
While there is some time and expense associated with estate planning, the process helps ensure that your assets are handled per your wishes after you are gone. While everyone’s situation is different, some of the primary benefits of working with an estate planning attorney include:
- Creating an individualized plan based on your specific needs and offering you the most valuable legal advice for your situation
- Working with an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about current estate planning laws in your state, ensuring that the decisions you make will be made in accordance with the law and are legally enforceable
- Access to a specialist who can serve as a resource for questions, concerns, changes, and updates to your will and trust
An estate planning attorney can also be called upon to guide anyone with power of attorney over a recently deceased person's estate through the process of probate court. In fact, a good estate planning attorney may be able to help you avoid probate court altogether, but that largely depends on the type of assets in the deceased's estate and how they are legally allowed to be transferred.
In the event that a beneficiary (or even an individual not designated as a beneficiary) announces that he or she plans to contest the will and sue the estate of a deceased family member or loved one that you also stand to benefit from, it might be in your best interest to consult an estate planning attorney immediately. Such lawsuits can quickly drain the estate's funds and leave all beneficiaries a little worse for the wear.
How much is an estate planning attorney?
Estate planning attorneys often charge a flat fee to help you craft binding legal documents such as wills and durable power of attorney, but they can also be employed on an hourly basis to help you maintain your estate, act on your behalf to handle disputes when called upon, and ensure that your will is carried out according to plan when required.
You may be able to have a simple will written by a qualified estate planning attorney for as little as $150 or $200. However, typical attorney feels often range from $250 - $350/hour, according to NOLO.1 The more complicated your estate, the more it will cost to set up.
If you'd like more information on wills and estate planning, visit the Protective Learning Center.