Understanding the Role of a Lawyer in Creating Your Estate Plan
Family Law,  General

Understanding the Role of a Lawyer in Creating Your Estate Plan

Estate planning helps protect your family from expensive, time-consuming legal battles and emotional turmoil after death. It can also help you address your wishes while still alive, such as in healthcare directives and powers of attorney.

An estate attorney is a legal professional who understands state and federal laws regarding how assets are inventoried, valued, and distributed. The cost of working with an estate attorney can vary significantly.


Drafting Documents

A good estate planning attorney will create and draft all the legal documents required to establish an individual’s comprehensive estate plan. This may include a will and trusts, powers of attorney, non-probate transfers, and beneficiary designations on financial accounts.

In addition, they will review tax considerations to help their clients minimize state and federal estate taxes. This is one of the most critical aspects of an estate attorney’s work, and individuals should only consider an estate planning lawyer with experience in these areas.

Inquire about how an estate attorney charges for their services. Some firms charge a flat fee for drafting basic estate planning documents, and others charge an hourly rate. A firm that offers both models is a good choice as it provides flexibility for individuals to choose the model that best meets their needs. Some attorneys also offer periodic reviews of a client’s estate plan, which is a great option for people who expect significant life changes to occur.

Reviewing Documents

The next step involves closely analyzing all the information in your legal documents. If a lawyer notices a mistake or a missing detail, they will point it out to you before sending the document off to be approved by the government.

Document review is a labor-intensive task often performed by teams of attorneys and paralegals. During the process, they examine documents for relevance, privilege and confidentiality to determine whether or not they should be produced to opposing parties in discovery requests.

A complete estate plan includes a durable power of attorney that designates someone to manage your money and health care decisions if you cannot do so. It also contains instructions for a digital fiduciary to access your computer files and other online accounts, including login information and passwords. This prevents your survivors from having to go through the difficult process of asking service providers for access.

Communicating With Your Beneficiaries

As an executor, it is your responsibility to keep beneficiaries informed. A lack of communication can lead to family members arguing over the estate or questioning your fiduciary duties. If you need help communicating with your beneficiaries, your lawyer can help.

They can explain the legal process, how to coordinate what you own with your documents and how to ensure beneficiary designations match up. They can also explain the formalities of executing your documents to ensure they meet all requirements.

An experienced estate planning attorney can also advise you about documents that can help you fulfill your wishes even during incapacity, including advanced health directives and power of attorney. They can also notify you about strategies for ensuring your children receive the care they need. They can also explain how to utilize your tax credits best. Finally, they can help you understand if any changes need to be made to your documents because of significant life events.

Executing Documents

The final stage of the process involves executing your documents and communicating with your beneficiaries. This step is where an experienced estate attorney can significantly impact your plan’s success. A completed copy is considered a legally binding contract when authorized representatives of the parties involved have signed and witnessed it.

In addition to ensuring that all legal requirements are met, a skilled estate attorney should also understand how state and federal laws may affect clients’ plans and provide accurate advice accordingly. This includes addressing estate taxes and understanding how those laws may change.

Choosing the right lawyer for your needs starts with learning the questions to ask. Be sure to find out if an estate attorney will take the time to listen and explain complicated topics in ways that are easy for you to understand. This helps ensure that your estate plan will completely reflect your goals.

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