What Do I Need to Know About Estate Planning Law?
As I grow older and get more established, I realize that I need to plan for my future. I need to make sure my spouse and children will be taken care of in the event something happens to me. This is where estate planning comes in. Estate planning is a field of law not often discussed in circles with those younger in age. However, it is of great importance if you are over the age of eighteen and have assets. In my research, I have discovered many things regarding estate planning law that can help you in the future.
So, what is estate planning law? Estate planning law is a field of law that assists individuals with real or personal property a person possesses at the time of their death. This can involve drafting living wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other items needed to transfer and manage a person’s property and possessions upon death.
Estate planning law can also be beneficial to those who have a loved one who is incapacitated and cannot oversee their assets. Being knowledgeable about estate planning will help you avoid facilitating the transfer of property in probate court. Probate court can be an expensive, long, and tedious process. It is better to explore your estate planning options to avoid court.
In this post, we will discuss some of the essential features of estate planning law. Estate planning for you and your family’s well-being is necessary. When talking about estate planning law, you have to know about the probate process, the pros and cons of retaining an attorney, and how to prepare for estate planning- what things you should compile. I have researched, and we will discuss all of these things in this article.
Estate Planning Details
According to the legal experts at Jeffrey & Erwin, planning for your assets after your death or if at any point you become incapacitated is the heart of estate planning law. Estate planning is a needed exercise after the age of eighteen years old.
Sometimes we do not begin to think of these things until we reach mid-life or in our older ages.
However, the sooner we can prepare our estate, the better. Estate planning involves preparing the documents which help those around you to abide by your wishes regarding your personal assets and property.
Documents Needed for Estate Planning
Must have documents needed to be drafted during the estate planning process: a durable power of attorney for healthcare, a financial power of attorney, a will, and a revocable trust. A durable power of attorney for health care is a document that allows you to name someone who can make decisions about your health care if you are not able to yourself
Types of Estate Planning
A financial power of attorney will enable you to appoint someone else to manage your finances and property for you if you are unable. A will is a legally enforceable document that establishes how you want your property distributed after your death. A revocable trust is an agreement that allows you to manage your assets while alive and distribute them after your death without dealing with probate.
This agreement also helps you minimize estate taxes. Probate is the legal process where the court system determines how a deceased person’s money, assets, and possessions are distributed. This occurs after the deceased person’s debts and taxes are paid off.
Estate planning law can be a very detailed process. It is possible to complete and execute all these documents yourself after researching how to do so. However, you might want legal help to do so.
Estate law attorneys are well versed in drafting all of these documents and can help you understand everything that should go into them. However, whether you want to use an attorney is your personal choice depending on your time, ability, and budget.
The Costs of Estate Planning
If engaging an attorney, estate planning fees can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars or more depending on your estate’s complexity and needs. However, the costs of estate planning are not just monetary.
Good estate planning can give you rest and peace of mind that your assets, finances, and possessions will be taken care of at the time of your death.
Proper estate planning helps you avoid probate court. Probate court can be a family’s worst nightmare.
Assets, property, possessions, and finances can be held up in probate court for a year or greater. Avoiding probate court will save your family time and additional court or attorney fees. As you can see, the intangible and tangible costs are significant when it comes to estate planning.
Do I Need An Estate Planning Attorney?
Getting an estate planning attorney is a personal decision. If all the terms and what I have said so far seem above your head, it might be in your best interest to get an attorney. Or, if you do not have the time or energy to deal with the hassle of creating all these documents, then an estate attorney might be your best option.
Estate attorney’s fees can be paid by the hour, on retainer, or a flat fee. The attorney’s fees are generally based on the level of work needed, the attorney’s experience, and even your location. Higher prices are found in higher cost of living areas. However, if you need an attorney, you must find it in your budget to enlist someone you can afford that can get the work completed for you.
Other options outside of getting an estate attorney include using online forms and websites (with minimal fees) to draft your documents. This will work if you have a reasonably simple estate and needs. However, the more wealth and assets you have, the more customized planning you might need.
Also, if you have a blended family or multiple past spouses and children, it would be in your best interest to have an attorney help you to draft your documents.
How Can I Prepare for Estate Planning?
If you are using an attorney or drafting your estate planning documents yourself, there are a few things that you should think through before you begin.
If you have children under the age of eighteen, you need to begin thinking about who you would like to be their guardian or conservator (for minors) if you have an untimely passing away.
It would be best to decide who you would like to be the agent, personal representative, and trustee of your estate (often the same person).
You must decide on a patient advocate for your living will. This person will make health care decisions and carry out your wishes for you in the time of death or incapacitation.
You must know who you want special items or your personal property to go to if it is not your surviving spouse or living children. It is also wise to have in mind if you want any assets to go to specific charities. You also will want to think about if you want your assets in a trust and how that should be managed.
Also, if you have pets, what are your wishes for them? Lastly, if none of your beneficiaries are alive at the time of your death, who is the ultimate taker of the estate? Also, consider gathering information about your net worth, assets, previous estate planning documents, and contact information for any beneficiaries or fiduciaries.
What other areas of law or professionals may you need in the estate planning process? Depending on the amount and type of assets you have, you might have to bring in other law professionals to assist when you are estate planning. At a minimum, you will need an estate law attorney. You might also need an individual specializing in family law if you have multiple marriages and children.
You possibly will need someone who knows elder law if involving an older person and their assets. Finally, you may need a real estate attorney if numerous types of property are involved. It is always in your best interest to have professional advisement when dealing with complicated estates.
When should you start estate planning? The rule of thumb is to begin estate planning as soon as you or your children become legal adults (over 18). However, most do not think about estate planning until they have children or have reached mid-life. However, several events can trigger thinking about estate planning, such as opening a savings account, purchasing property, marriage or remarriage, travel, having kids, divorce, and grandchildren or new births in the family.
What are the “must-have” documents of estate planning? A few “must-have” documents are essential when talking about estate planning. Some of the essential documents include a will, a financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, and a living trust.
Other documents and different types of trusts might be needed depending on your situation. However, this is a good list of documents to draft to get started and be minimally equipped in your estate planning efforts. The key is to begin and be prepared.