You’ve no doubt heard and read all the arguments in favor of estate planning. Most of those arguments are based on sound reasoning and simple common sense truths. We all eventually die, and our estates pass on to our loved ones. Without a formal estate plan, the disposition of those estates will be determined not by our express wishes, but by the cold letter of the state’s intestacy laws. To properly care for your loved ones, you need an estate plan. The question is, though, do you need an estate planning attorney to create that plan?
If you judged the answer to that question based solely on the commentary and advertising you see online, you might be struck by the apparent disconnect that you see. On the one hand, every expert agrees that estate planning is essential – that you need to have a will, incapacity plan, and other important estate plan tools and strategies. At the same time, though, many websites suggest that you can create these documents on your own, and thus have no need for a competent estate planning attorney. For a variety of reasons, that argument fails to acknowledge the true value that such an attorney can provide.
Estate Planning Is Governed by Laws
Estate planning deals with many issues, and those issues are governed by laws. Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other planning documents are all given force and meaning by state law. Whenever laws are involved, it’s always advisable to ensure that you have counsel and assistance from someone intimately familiar with those legal concerns. An estate planning attorney has the specific legal training and experience that you need to deal with a wide variety of legal challenges, and can ensure that your planning documents and strategies are all properly aligned with these laws.
Estate Planning Deals with Complex Issues
Estate planning involves a host of complex issues, and those issues get even more complicated with larger, more intricate estates and families with special circumstances. You need an estate planning expert to help you navigate through those concerns and ensure that you have the planning documents and strategies needed to meet your objectives. Without experience in estate planning, you could end up with a plan that is too simple to accomplish your goals or too cumbersome and confusing to adequately convey your wishes.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you to properly review your circumstances to better identify your needs. Does your estate need a trust to accomplish certain goals? Your attorney will recognize that fact and can help you to design the right trust instrument to take care of your needs. The same holds true for any other specific issues that may need to be addressed with your estate, including important concerns like estate planning, retirement planning, and more.
Your Estate Plan Needs a Personalized Touch
If you think that a fill-in-the-blank DIY will or trust can meet your unique needs, think again. While it is always possible that your do-it-yourself estate plan could end up being the most ideal plan ever created, the odds aren’t in your favor. In fact, that’s probably not a bet that you should even be willing to make. The fact is that estate planning is a uniquely individualized process, so it’s almost strange to think that there could be a one-size-fits-all solution that would work for everyone. The very fact that you have unique needs should indicate that you need a more personalized approach to dealing with those needs.
Your estate planning attorney can provide that personalized touch. He or she can help you to determine which strategies will work best for your estate plan, and can help to address a wide variety of specialized concerns, such as:
- Special Needs Trusts that can help you to provide an inheritance to a disabled loved one in a way that won’t negatively impact their access to important government benefits
- Spendthrift Trusts that can be used to protect an heir’s inheritance from his own bad financial decision-making or problems with creditors
- Pet trusts that can provide for your beloved animal companions when you’re gone
- The use of joint tenancy, transfer-on-death accounts, and other tools that can help your estate to avoid probate
- And more!
It’s About More Than Just Your Death
An estate planning attorney can also help you to remember that your estate plan is about more than dealing with the aftermath of your death. The best estate plans should also help to protect your assets while you’re still alive, provide a blueprint for financial and retirement planning, and ensure that your end-of-life needs are properly met. Without those plans, other aspects of your estate plan may fail to work as you envision.
Take long-term care, for example. Given that most estimates suggest that half of us will require some type of nursing home care at some point in life, it’s important to ensure that we’ll be able to pay for that care. For many people, that means ensuring that they can qualify for Medicaid benefits when that time comes. An estate planning attorney with expertise in elder law can help you to craft a Medicaid planning strategy that will enable you to meet that program’s tough asset and income eligibility guidelines later in life. Without this planning, nursing home costs could consume your entire estate, rendering your estate planning efforts all but useless.
Get the Professional Help You Need
There really is no sound argument against reliance on an experienced estate planning attorney. When you’re dealing with important matters that have such weighty legal consequences, it is only natural to turn to a legal professional to help you ensure that your plan operates as intended. At Frank & Kraft, Attorneys at Law, our estate planning experts can provide you with the estate plan you need to meet all your most important goals. We’ll work with you to create the documents and strategies you need to protect your family and your interests. To learn more about how we can assist you with this critical planning, call today at (317) 684-1100, or contact us at our website.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.