What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?

An estate planning attorney is a licensed legal professional that thoroughly understands the state and federal laws that govern the assessment, valuation, distribution, and taxation of your estate.

Estate planning attorneys are vital in the estate planning process. They can even assist afterward if probate court proceedings become needed. Your estate will be impacted by federal and state laws that an estate planning attorney will understand.

What Does An Estate Planning Attorney Do?

By creating an estate plan, you can plan for what will happen after you pass away or if you are no longer able to manage your assets on your own. It is possible to create a solid plan for dealing with both of these situations with the help of an estate planning attorney, also known as an estate lawyer.

An estate planning attorney is a licensed legal professional that thoroughly understands the state and federal laws that govern the assessment, valuation, distribution, and taxation of your estate.  An estate planning lawyer can provide legal advice regarding wills, trusts, and your local probate process. Some estate attorneys have specialties, such as estate tax and business succession planning, and probate litigation.

An estate attorney will help you draft legal documents and create a plan to make sure your assets pass to your intended beneficiaries without any court battles or hefty tax bills. Estate attorneys can also assist in preparing for many other situations, such as if you are incapacitated and unable to care for yourself.

Here are some other important things a trust and estate attorney can help you do:

  • Appoint legal guardians for your children
  • Prepare a will that's harder to contest after you die
  • Determine how you want your property distributed
  • Help you set up a revocable living trust, life insurance trust, or other trusts
  • Transfer assets into your trust
  • Help with tax planning and wealth transfers
  • Assist your loved ones and family members by  administering your trust
  • Plan for unexpected situations, like the death or incapacity of a beneficiary
  • Appoint someone as a durable power of attorney for financial or health care decisions
  • Plan for those special needs loved ones
  • Help you avoid the probate court process altogether
  • Protect loved ones who need future protection from creditors or divorce
  • Answer any questions you have about estate planning and state laws

When Should You Hire An Estate Planning Attorney?

Every adult should hire an estate planning attorney. Without legally binding estate planning documents, your parents, partners, or friends cannot carry out your wishes after you die.

Contrary to popular belief, an estate plan isn’t just meant for the rich, retired, or elderly. Life can take unanticipated turns at any age.

For most people, estate planning is about protecting yourself and your assets in case of incapacity and death, as well as planning for future family dynamics. The help of an estate planning professional can ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and accurate.

Everyone should work with an estate planning attorney regardless of age or situation. Your estate planning attorney can adjust your estate plan as your life situation changes.                                                     

What To Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney

When looking for an estate planning attorney, you should look for a trustworthy attorney who puts you at ease. Ultimately, this person will be helping you make decisions that may be challenging and emotional. Many times, you'll have to share a great deal of personal information during your attorney client relationship, including your final wishes. If you are comfortable speaking with your attorney, the whole process will be much easier.

You should ask family and friends for recommendations when looking for an estate planning attorney. Their personal experiences will be the best indicator of any attorney’s quality and whether they will be a good fit. Financial advisors are also good sources since they regularly work with attorneys.

It is advisable that you hire an estate planning lawyer who is licensed to practice in your state to help you with your estate planning needs. Having state-specific expertise in estate law is especially important because laws and probate procedures vary from state to state.

Some estate planning law firms offer free consultations. Estate planning law firms may bill you according to an hourly rate or a flat fee. A flat fee offers the benefit of indicating up front how much you will pay. Determining what billing method works best for you can help you decide which estate attorney to choose.

The Benefits of Working with an Estate Planning Attorney:

Estate plans are a lot more than a list of assets and who gets them after your death. In the end, your estate plan will be your legal legacy.

Your attorney will help you create a comprehensive estate plan that carries out your wishes and protects you and your assets. Estate planning lawyers can also help you avoid probate and estate taxes, decide what legal instruments best suit your situation, ensure your wishes are carried out, assets are protected, keep up with the latest laws, and update your estate planning documents when necessary.

Legal Advice To Guide Your Estate Decisions

If you wish to avoid putting your estate through probate, there are several ways a lawyer can help you. The most common way of avoiding both probate and estate taxes is through the use of trusts. Your estate planning attorney will help you set up and organize a will and trust that legally reduces your tax obligations and the risk of expensive litigation.

Protect Your Assets

In some situations, a simple will is sufficient to protect your assets and carry out your wishes. In others, several different types of trusts may be necessary. An estate lawyer can advise you on how much work your estate plan requires. A skilled estate planning lawyer knows all the tools your estate will need.

Ensure Your Wishes Are Carried Out

Estate planning documents are legally binding. They exist to ensure your wishes will be carried out the way you want and without unwanted interference from the courts or the government.

Keep Your Estate Documents Up-To-Date

Estate planning laws are constantly changing, and estate planning lawyers keep up-to-date with them. They will know about the latest rules, such as the newest IRS exemption limits for estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. They may also be aware of useful recent trends, such as digital asset estate planning. It is recommended to meet with an estate attorney annually to make sure your estate plan is up to date.

Final Thoughts

From start to finish, estate planning involves countless intricate decisions, and an estate attorney can help you determine the plan that's right for your individual needs. Working with an estate planning attorney will ensure that you can go into the estate planning process with confidence, giving you peace of mind.

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