There are many types of lawyers and not everyone knows how an estate planning attorney can help. We’ve covered the differences between a general lawyer and a personal injury attorney. Instead of filing a lawsuit and obtaining compensation for damages, an estate planning attorney can help the entire family determine where an individual’s assets and finances go in the event of their death or incapacitation.
What Does an Estate Planner Do?
An estate planner is an attorney licensed to handle end-of-life planning. Also known as an estate probate attorney, they can familiarize you with the estate planning process. Numerous laws affect the transfer, disbursement, and taxation of estates. Everyone also has different financial needs and circumstances, so an attorney can help create a customized estate plan while working with financial advisors and tax professionals.
An estate planning attorney can help:
- Identify who your beneficiaries are.
- Draft a will, power of attorney, advance health care directive, and other documents.
- Set up a revocable living trust, a document that lets a trustee manage assets for you and your beneficiaries.
- Provide tax planning to reduce estate tax burdens after the client’s death or incapacitation.
- Avoid the probate process, in which the court validates the deceased person’s will.
Not only wealthy families benefit from estate planning. An estate planner can work with anyone who has personal belongings and assets they’d like distributed in a certain way.
How Do I Know I Need an Estate Probate Attorney?
Whether you need to work with an estate planner depends on your circumstances. Some examples of when a probate attorney can help navigate the process include:
- You Have Children: If you have minor children or dependents, estate planning can help another adult manage the decedent’s assets until the child is old enough. A trust is often set up to do this. It’s more complicated than drafting a will.
- Navigating Your State’s Tax Laws: Federal estate taxes range from 18% to 40%. As of 2023, federal taxes on estates or inheritances only apply to assets over $12.92 million.1 However, each state has different estate tax laws, which an experienced attorney can help you navigate.
- You Have Special Needs: If you have a chronic health condition or are disabled, elderly, or otherwise at risk of incapacity and unable to manage your money and health, an attorney can help. They’ll work with you and your loved ones to manage directive documents and set up a plan that suits your needs.
Managing estate planning documents can be challenging as they often contain language only an experienced attorney can use to relate to your situation. There are also many considerations. A lawyer can address issues and answer questions you didn’t know applied to your circumstances.
Do I Always Need Estate Planning Help?
However, you may not need a legal advisor if all your savings and assets are in a beneficiary-designated retirement or insurance account. A beneficiary named in the account typically receives these assets. Some attorneys use online estate planning software and that’s it; if so, you can avoid the costs and use the software yourself. Or, you can start the estate planning process and consult a legal expert later as you age, your plans and health change, or your situation evolves.
Tips on Meeting with an Estate Planner
To prepare for your meeting with an estate planning attorney:
- Choose a Lawyer: To start, you can obtain references from family members, friends, or colleagues. Your employer may offer a legal plan benefit and connect you with an experienced attorney. Another option is to seek a member of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
- Organize Your Documentation: Key documents include bank account, investment and brokerage account, and pension and retirement account statements. Life insurance policies, beneficiary designations, guardianship designations, real estate and timeshare deeds, birth/adoption certificates, divorce decrees, business ownership and partnership interest documents, and other policies and declarations should also be available. Gather accounts of your debt, such as mortgage, loan, and credit card statements, as well.
We recommend creating digital copies of every document you can. Upload these digital files to the cloud to ensure they’re as secure as possible.
- Discuss Your Wishes with Your Family: Begin your estate plan by talking to loved ones about who will manage your money, care for your children, and act as your executor. Also, determine who will make critical healthcare decisions if you become unable to. These aren’t always the most comfortable discussions, but they can provide comfort in knowing people will support your wishes.
Call Jacob Today
The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani has awarded millions of dollars in damages to personal injury clients. We also have a vast network of legal professionals who can help with a wide range of matters. If you need an estate planning attorney, there are many in Los Angeles who can work with you and your family. Call us at 888-952-2952 to learn more.