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Don't Gamble with Your Future: Why Choosing the Right Estate Planning Attorney Matters

January 25, 2024 • | Curran Estate & Elder Law, PLLC
Estate planning: two words that encapsulate the entirety of your life’s work and the legacy you wish to leave behind. It is a profound yet often misunderstood aspect of personal finance and legal preparedness. As an experienced estate planning attorney, I’ve seen firsthand the turmoil and heartache…


Estate planning:   Two words that encapsulate the entirety of your life’s work and the legacy you wish to leave behind. It is a profound yet often misunderstood aspect of personal finance and legal preparedness. As an experienced estate planning attorney, I have seen firsthand the turmoil and heartache resulting from inadequate or nonexistent estate plans. This post aims to illuminate the crucial role of a skilled estate planning attorney in securing your future and the wellbeing of your loved ones.

Understanding Estate Planning

Estate planning is not merely drafting a will.  It is a comprehensive approach to managing your assets, health directives, and your legacy after you pass away or if you become incapacitated. Common misconceptions, such as the notion that estate planning is only for the wealthy or that it can be postponed until later in life, often deter people from taking the necessary steps. In reality, estate planning is a vital process for every adult, regardless of the size of their estate.

The Risks of DIY Estate Planning

In the era of do-it-yourself solutions, it is tempting to cut corners and opt for online templates or templates purchased at an office supply store for estate planning. However, this approach is fraught with risks. Personalized advice is crucial since every individual's situation is unique. DIY estate plans often fail to account for state-specific laws, complex family dynamics, or future changes in assets. Real-life cases abound where such oversights have led to legal battles, unintended disinheritance, the inability to protect assets during your lifetime, or significant tax burdens for heirs.

The Value an Estate Planning Attorney Adds

A dedicated estate planning attorney brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. We do not just draft standardized documents.  We craft a plan tailored to your specific needs, considering intricate legal frameworks and tax implications. Our expertise ensures your estate plan is robust, flexible, and up to date with current laws. Furthermore, we navigate the emotional and complex aspects of estate planning, offering peace of mind that your affairs are in competent hands.

What to Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney

When seeking an estate planning attorney, consider the following:

  1. Experience and Expertise:  Seek attorneys with significant experience in estate planning, preferably one who practices estate planning and estate administration as their primary areas of law. They should have a strong track record in handling cases similar to yours.
  2. Communication Skills:  Your attorney should be someone you can speak with openly and who can explain complex legal concepts in understandable terms.
  3. Reputation and Reviews:  Research their reputation.  Check out their website.  Online reviews and referrals from friends or financial advisors can be valuable resources.

The Process of Working with an Estate Planning Attorney

Working with an estate planning attorney typically involves:

  • Initial Consultation:  Discussing your goals, family dynamics, and financial and health matters.
  • Document Preparation:  Drafting Wills, Trusts if appropriate, Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives and other documents that may be necessary in your particular situation.
  • Regular Updates:  Estate plans should evolve with your life changes. Periodic reviews are essential.

This process is not a one-time event but an ongoing relationship to ensure your estate plan remains relevant and effective.

Financial and Emotional Benefits of Proper Estate Planning

A well-constructed estate plan offers significant benefits:

  • Financial Savings:  Minimize taxes, avoid probate costs, and prevent legal disputes.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing your loved ones will be cared for and your wishes will be honored.

These benefits extend beyond the financial; they offer a sense of security and clarity for you and your family.

Key Takeaways

  1. Estate Planning is Essential for Everyone: It’s not just for the wealthy; everyone should have an individualized plan to manage their assets and health directives.
  2. DIY Comes with Risks: Online templates and DIY solutions are often insufficient and may lead to unintended consequences and legal complications.
  3. Professional Guidance is Key:  An experienced estate planning attorney can provide tailored advice and ensure your plan is legally sound and up to date.
  4. Choose the Right Attorney: Look for specialized experience in estate planning and/or elder law, strong communication skills, and positive client reviews.
  5. Ongoing Process:  Estate planning is not a one-time task. It should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect life changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I just use an online template for my Will?

Online templates are generic and may not adequately address your specific needs or comply with state-specific laws. An estate planning attorney can provide a customized plan considering your unique situation and legal requirements.

At what age should I start thinking about estate planning?

It is wise to consider, at a minimum, having a Financial Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will prepared upon attaining age 18, when you are no longer a dependent of your parent(s).  It is wise to consider a Will when you have any significant assets or responsibilities, own a home, get married, have children, or start a business. It is never too early to start planning for the future.

How often should I update my estate plan?

You should review and possibly update your estate plan every three to five years or sooner if you experience significant life changes like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a decline in health of you or your spouse, or substantial changes in your financial situation.

What happens if I don't have an estate plan?

Without an estate plan, the distribution of your assets will be determined by state laws, which may not align with your wishes. This can lead to family disputes, unnecessary taxes, and legal complications.

Is estate planning only about distributing my assets?

No, it's more than that. Estate planning also includes making arrangements for your financial and healthcare decisions if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself, designating guardians for minor children, potentially reducing taxes and other expenses, and preserving assets for future generations.

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