You pass away. Your loved ones hold a funeral. They distribute your assets based on your wishes. Sounds simple enough, right?
The problem is, that's not quite what happens.
If you die without leaving a clear, legally sound estate plan in accordance with state law, your estate has to pass through probate, which is the legal process of settling an estate after you pass away. Any debts or taxes are paid off, then distributions are made. However, if there are any issues with your estate, those are ironed out in probate. Problem is, probate has a reputation for lasting just shy of forever, and probate fees can eat through money that would go to your beneficiaries.
For estates of minimal value, probate is expensive and wasteful. An estate planning lawyer can help you sidestep it and ensure your beneficiaries see the greatest benefit.
What is an Estate Planning Lawyer?
Estate planning covers the transfer of property after death, including a variety of other legal matters from tax planning to wills to life insurance. For example, it may dip a toe into real estate law when addressing how your home passes to your beneficiaries.
An estate planning attorney is a licensed, experienced legal professional who specializes in state and federal laws governing how your estate is valued, inventoried, taxed, and disbursed after your death. They educate you on the process of estate planning and ensure all the legal boxes are checked so that your estate can be distributed according to your wishes.
What an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)
Most people think they have simple estates. For this reason, people often think they can write their own estate plan. The problem is that most people's estates are more complex than they think.
In fact, one of the most common estate planning mistakes is thinking your estate is simpler than it actually is.
Everything you own is part of your estate. That includes property like your home and furniture, but it also includes things like financial assets, insurance policies, bank accounts, and even items of sentimental value. However, it also includes outstanding taxes and debts, like your mortgage. If you have any debt or complex assets (hint: most people do) you need an estate planning lawyer.
In fact, there are plenty of things an estate planning lawyer can do that you can't.
Like customizing your will, for example. You can find plenty of last will and testament templates online, but most people don't fit into a generic template. And if you need to alter any provision in the template, you may invalidate the entire will (remember, any invalidated element may throw the whole will into question). Let the professionals handle it.
An estate planning lawyer can also tell you when to update your will. Just because your will worked yesterday doesn't mean it's still a good fit. As soon as your family, financial situation, or assets change, you have to update your estate plan. An estate planning lawyer will ensure it's all airtight.
The Estate Planners You Need to Protect Your Family
When you need to hire an expert estate planning lawyer, don't give your family anything less than the best.
At Monastra & Grater, we are expert attorneys guiding families through every stage of life, from Social Security law to title insurance to estate planning law. Most importantly, we know how to integrate various elements of the law together to ensure you get the best possible estate plan for your unique case.
We're here for your family when you need it most. So if you need to get started on your estate plan, get in touch today.