Estate planning involves planning the future of your family, business, beneficiaries, assets and all forms of ownership. It consists of the drafting of a will, but it also involves a lot more than that. It includes medical, tax, financial and business planning. So, here are a few questions you need to ask before you decide for or against estate planning –
- What is the approximate value of your assets?
- How do you want to distribute those assets?
- Who should be in charge of the assets in case you are unable to care for them or after you pass away?
- In case you are unable to care for yourself, who should take charge of all relevant decision making?
- Is there any special request for your family or any specific directive for handling and caring for your remains, assets, and dependents after your passing?
These are fundamental questions that people often ask themselves from time to time. The average American citizen is too busy to research these matters or ask for professional and legal help; also the vast majority believes estate planning is for the ultra rich. However, these questions are fundamental to anyone’s life, and in fact, everyone can benefit from consulting a team of professional Will and Estate Lawyers regardless of the value of their estate. Here are some reasons why:
What happens in case someone passes without a will, estate plan, or similar legal succession documentation?
When someone fails to draft a proper legal plan for their estate, a will judge appoint an official to distribute his or her assets according to the intestate succession. Now, you must be relieved to learn that the state does not get everything if you pass away without a will and testament. However, without a will or other proper legal documentation, the distribution of your assets becomes an extremely long process and one in which only the courts can decide based on the law.
What is a will?
A will is a part of the estate plan, and it is a legal document that includes the following information –
- Names of individuals, who will receive your property, tangible and intangible, after your demise.
- It can also nominate the executor, who will manage your estate, by the appointment and the supervision of the probate court.
- The legal document may even include details of tax payment, debt clearance, estate distribution and expenses.
- It may also include the names of the guardians for your minor children.
- A will can also contain details for the guardianship, care, and allowance for any special needs child or sibling you have.
Except for your securities and bank accounts, most of your assets will be a part of your will and estate plan. Certain co-owned assets directly pass onto the co-owner irrespective of the instructions you provide on your will. In some states, the downloadable, fill-in-the-blanks will is enough, but you need to execute them as per the law. If you fail to do so, the entire will can become invalid. That is why you need to work with a lawyer to ensure that your will is in fact valid.
When is it alright to not have a will?
In certain situations, you might choose not to make a will. Particular assets pass down to the beneficiaries directly. These assets include –
- The proceeds from life insurance policies.
- Retirement plans (both qualified and non-qualified), the 401(k) plans and IRAs.
- All Pay on Death (PoD) assets that include the US savings bonds.
- A few specific trustee accounts at the bank.
Which one will become a part of probate and which assets your beneficiaries will inherit directly depends upon the laws of the state and the federation. The beneficiary designations can have profound effects on your beneficiaries, and they have the potential to offer significant tax benefits as well. Unless you know about the legalities of inheritance and inheritance tax, you should speak with an expert estate lawyer immediately.
Do you need the help of estate lawyers?
It is possible for an individual to draft his will, and complete his estate planning on time. You will need help from online libraries, law books, volumes of tax and property management, and scores of forms for the process. It is indeed time-consuming, but you should be able to complete planning the future of your assets. However, ensure that the documents comply with the state laws. Each state has unique rules for the residents. The estate laws in Florida will not be identical to those in California. If you want to draft the will and the plans all by yourself, it is alright, but you should consider conferring with an expert team of estate planning lawyers in your locality.
Now, if you think that it is too much work and you do not know a lot about estate laws, it is alright. Most office goers, businesses owners, and other self-employed individuals do not have the time to draft their own estate plans. For them, there are efficient legal teams, who do the research. You need to be transparent about your property and other assets with your lawyers. Estate planning attorneys work in the best interest of their clients. For a more substantial estate, it usually begins with one or a team of attorneys, but slowly financial planners, life insurance managers, public accountants, pension consultants and personnel managers become a part of the complete process.
What should you remember while seeking professional help?
While choosing a professional, always ask for his or her qualifications. Today, it is easy to verify anyone’s certifications and claims of experience via the internet. You can check the review of the firms and the individual attorneys online on third-party sites. There are many people, who claim to be certified planners and trust specialists. They lack the legal know-how, and they rarely help clients in planning for a secure financial future for their families. Beware of such unscrupulous personalities. Always consult with a lawyer you know first. In fact, speak with your family lawyer even though he specializes in some other field of law. He or she might be able to guide you in the right direction.