There are a lot of different things that legal teams are able to provide to their clients. Some are able to help you with defending against crimes or charges brought up against you, while other lawyers will be able to help you with other family matters like the process of adoption, or divorce.
Knowing who to go to for basic legal matters like these are pretty straight forward, but in times where family members or loved ones pass away, what type of lawyer do you need for a will?
When you are looking to hire someone to draw up a will, you need to go to someone who works as a probate attorney, or an estate planning attorney. These types of lawyers have knowledge and experience in trust administration, probate, estate planning, elder care, and special needs issues that surpass general family law practitioners.
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What Does A Probate Attorney Do?
A probate attorney is basically an advisor to the beneficiaries of an estate or personal representative on how to handle any final matters of someone who is deceased.
These kinds of attorneys are able to help someone come up with a last will and testament so that the members of their family have a sense of security, comfort, and safety if untimely death should occur. These kinds of lawyers are also able to help with powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney and even trust planning.
Some other things that this type of lawyer is able to assist in are in matters that deal with tax issues, retitling of a decedent’s assets and requesting court permissions for a variety of reasons.
There are some probate lawyers that specialize in cases where beneficiaries and representatives have become entangled in different lawsuits that are somehow related to the decedent’s estate or when the validity of the last will has been challenged in a will contest. These kinds of lawyers are called probate litigators or estate and trust litigators.
There is no law that says that you absolutely must hire a lawyer to handle an estate or write a will, so technically you are allowed to attempt these actions on your own. This is not recommended though because if things are not filed or executed correctly, it can end very badly with a personal liability lawsuit. Complications with wills happen very regularly, so it is always good to have a probate attorney on your side to do the work that is needed to be done.
What Are The Benefits Of Hiring An Estate Planning Attorney?
If you want to make sure all of your affairs will be handled with extra care, expertise and attention, you most definitely want to consider hiring an attorney. The benefits and security that come from taking this route produce a vast amount of benefits for you and your family.
When dealing with properties and estates, no two are ever the same. Each individual person has different fears, goals, dreams, preferences, and needs when it comes to this kind of process. When you hire an attorney that is qualified and has plenty of experience, you will be able to get a plan that is customized to fit your every need.
Using a generic method such as online, or a family law practitioner will get you generalized results that won’t be as good of a fit. There may even be attorneys that have a little experience in this field that could end up causing more damage than if you had gone with a more qualified attorney.
On top of that, a will is not the only thing that you are going to need. There are countless scenarios where individuals or families were under the impression that a will is the only document that is important for tying up final plans, but that is not the case.
If you hire an experienced attorney, they will be able to walk with you and be by your side in picking the best tools and documents that best fit the unique factors of your specific case. A revocable living trust, for example, is a much better route to take for one family than just a normal will.
Once a will has been drawn up, there may be a need to make adjustments or updates to the document as time goes on. An attorney will be able to assist you in making these changes and continue assisting you if the need should arise.
By hiring an estate planning attorney, mistakes are avoided. There are so many mistakes that can be made that are avoided simply by deciding to let someone with experience handle the process. There is no need to guess your way through something when there is assistance like this readily available.
How Do I Know I Need An Estate Planning Attorney?
Knowing when and for what reasons to hire an estate planning attorney can be challenging if you have never been informed of the appropriate circumstances in which to do so. Throughout your life, there are many things that can prompt the need to hire an estate planning attorney. Some of these things include:
1. If You Want To Take Care Of Yourself
Knowing who is going to decide important things and make decisions for you if you aren’t able is an important thing to know in the process of estate planning. If you for some reason become untraceable, unreachable or deceased due to unforeseen circumstances, a trust that is either revocable or living will keep any assets you possess secure and will describe who will be getting your property or other items at the time of your passing.
If a power of attorney is named for you in regard to legal or financial situations, it will be a huge benefit to you if you suddenly become mentally or physically handicapped in any way. This will ensure that the best possible choices are made on your behalf.
2. If You Want To Reduce Your Transfer Taxes
For anyone, maximizing how much of your wealth is transferred to the ones you love is a very crucial part of this estate planning process. There were new laws established in 2017 that increases the amount that someone is able to pass on while they are alive, or at the time of their passing, with no additional transfer taxes being activated.
With this new law, you are able to give tax-free gifts that are up to $15,000 if you are single, and twice that amount if you are married. Educational and medical costs are also able to be paid for someone else without a gift tax being applied.
3. If You Want To Help Others
Hiring an estate planning attorney can also be a great decision if you are wanting to help others. If you have your sites set on accomplishing some philanthropic goals through a generational connection, tax-planning perspectives or just personal fulfillment, having this kind of plan put in place ahead of time can ensure that these goals don’t pass by not being met.
Once you have started the process, you will be able to select the avenue that you want your gifts to be utilized in and customize it just the way you want it.
4. If You Want To Secure The Wealth Of Your Family
If you want to protect your family’s assets, hiring an estate planning attorney is the way to go. Most plans that are drawn up for transferring wealth will usually have benefits included that will protect the wealth. This is an important factor for a family with a large amount of wealth to their name.
There are quite a few methods put in place created to protect your assets from creditors like irrevocable trusts, ownership insurance, asset protection trusts, and limited liability entities. The attorney that you hire will be able to walk you through each and every part of this process and help you pick the plan that will ensure that the wealth of your family stays as secure as it can be.
5. If You Are Deciding How Your Assets Are Distributed
If you are in the process of drawing up a will, then you should definitely be looking to hire an estate planning attorney. A will is one of the most simple documents of an estate plan and will indicate a personal representative who will oversee the distribution of your assets once you are deceased. Assets like retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance need you to name the people who will benefit from them, so they don’t actually need to be added to a will. It is really easy to forget these steps of the process though, so that’s why it is very important to hire an estate planning attorney to help you figure out how they will be distributed along with the rest of your assets.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Probate Attorney?
The important thing to understand when it comes to hiring a probate lawyer and how much it will cost you is that there are two separate areas of cost.
Estate Lawyer Fees — The first type of cost will come in the form of estate lawyer fees. Estate lawyer fees are paid to the attorney directly for legal services that have been provided.
A good amount of probate lawyers will charge you at an hourly rate that changes depending on what location you are in, as well as the qualifications and experience that the lawyer has. If the attorney has had more experience and is more qualified, the higher the rate will end up being.
Occasionally, probate lawyers will charge a fee that is flat once they have assessed the case itself. There have been some cases where probate lawyers ask for a percentage for payment that is based on the gross value of the estate itself.
No matter what kind of payment option you end up deciding on with your attorney, it is important to make sure that you request a fee agreement that is in writing to ensure that there are no miscommunications in regard to the cost of services.
Probate Fees — Probate fees are separate from estate lawyer fees and include fees such as:
- Accounting Fees
- Personal Representative Fees
- Court Fees
- Publication Of Notice Fees
- Deed Fees
- Appraisal Fees
The costs for probate will change a good amount depending on the location, but will usually end up being somewhere in the ballpark of 3% to 7% of the entire value of the estate. Depending on the situation, the cost can increase by a substantial amount if the value of the estate escalates. The higher the value of the estate, the more the costs of probate are going to end up being.
How Do I Find The Right Probate Lawyer?
When looking to hire a probate lawyer, it can be tempting to say yes to the first lawyer and jump right in to start going through the nitty-gritty of all the details immediately. While this may be time-efficient, it may be damaging to the long term results of your case.
Before a lawyer is hired, you want to be sure to ask some good questions. It doesn’t hurt to even let the attorney know that you will be talking to quite a few lawyers before you make a decision on who will be assisting you with your estate.
If you aren’t sure what questions to ask, some good ones to start with are:
- How long will the process of probate take approximately?
- How many cases like this have you been involved with?
- What is your method of charging for your work? Flat rate? Hourly?
- Will tax returns be prepared for the person who is deceased?
- Because I want to keep fees down, I want to do some of the probate work on my own. Is this something you can work with?
- Approximately, how much will your fees be?
When dealing with estate planning, you are communicating back in forth with someone about very sensitive and delicate information. While hiring someone qualified is high on the list, you also want to find an attorney who understands how fragile emotions are during this time.
You want to be sure that they know how to communicate clearly, and effectively while explaining jargon that you aren’t familiar with. They need to be able to explain the process from beginning to end, and at the same time listen to your thoughts and concerns.
Take your time with this process, and only say yes to hiring someone when you are completely confident in your decision.
What Happens If I Die Without A Will?
If you or someone you know unfortunately passes without having a will written, it means that you or this individual has died “intestate”. Laws that apply to this situation within your state will decide what to do with your property and assets and where they are distributed when someone is deceased. These assets include real estate, bank accounts, securities and other assets that you had under your ownership when the time of your death occurred.
Depending on your family status and the state you were residing in, intestate laws can change greatly. The most common situation is that the assets are given out in split shares to any heirs, which could be siblings, spouse, parents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles or even distant relatives. If there are no relatives or close ties, it is usually decided that the assets will go to the state.
If you are married at the time of your death, any assets that are left behind will usually all be transferred to the spouse that has survived or split up between the siblings, parents and surviving spouse.
If you are single at the time of your passing and don’t have any children, the law is that both of your parents will receive all of your assets if they are both currently still living. If this is not the case, the law is that your assets should be divided up between your siblings and the parent that is still alive if one has passed. All assets will go to your siblings in equal parts if there are no parents at the time of your death. If there are no siblings, parents or descendants of your siblings, the law is that your relatives who are on your mother’s side of the family will receive half of your assets, while the other half goes to the father’s side of the family.
If you aren’t married but are living together in the same home, passing away without a will can be extremely difficult on the surviving partner. The reason for this is that intestacy laws will only apply to relatives. Unless it is clearly stated in a will that explains what the intentions of the deceased are, any assets will be given directly to relatives rather than the partner.
It’s safe to say that choosing to write a will is in the best interest to anyone close in your life. Take the time to think through this process, and hire an attorney today!