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Top 3 Estate Planning Tips When Seeing An Attorney

Estate planning is a systematic method that manages the personal and financial matters of a person in case of death. The legal document for the necessary plan for death is called the Last Will and Testament, which includes the set of instructions for the condition and distribution of the estates.

Some people may think of estate planning as an affair for wealthy individuals only. In fact, 68% of Americans don’t have a will. In the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, more people are in urgent need of an estate plan and even lead to the surge in demand for self-made wills for some states.

To secure your will and trust legally, consult an estate planning attorney to create the estate plan. It’s best to work with a lawyer who understands the needs of the client, have years of mentoring, experience, and continuing legal education. For instance, the Law Office of Libby Banks has long been in the service of protecting assets and developing estate plans with clients. Hence, it makes sense meeting with a lawyer to create a plan.

In this article are tips for estate planning when seeing an attorney.

1. Ask About The Lawyer’s Experience

An estate planning attorney may have the experience and specialized knowledge to help you with financial situations and family affairs compared to a general practitioner. Lawyers specializing in estate planning may help you cover the contingencies and make sure that the plan is complete. If possible, look for the following qualities:

  • Their practice is dedicated to estate planning.

  • Have a sense of trustworthiness that makes you comfortable sharing personal details of your life and concerns about the estate plan.

  • Well-versed and updated with the laws in your state to ensure the validity of the plan.

2. List Everything You Have

Once you start looking, you may be surprised with the tangible and intangible assets you have. Tangible assets may include:

  • Vehicles like cars, or boats

  • Homes, land, and other real estate

  • Collectibles like art, coins, or antiques

  • Other personal possessions

Intangible assets may include:

  • Mutual funds, bonds, stocks

  • Savings accounts and certificates of deposit

  • Retirement plans

  • Health saving accounts

  • Business ownership

If possible, try to give an estimate for the assets. You can use recent appraisals of properties and statements from financial accounts for other assets. When the outside valuation isn’t available, value the items based on the expected value for your heirs to ensure that possessions are distributed equitably.

3. Prepare The Necessary Documents

Before meeting with the attorney, most law offices will require you to complete a questionnaire and to bring a list of documents during the appointment. Preparing these things in advance may save you time and money before the consultation. In every estate planning, the must-haves include:

  • Will/Trust: It’s one of the main components of the estate plan even if you don’t have major assets. The will ensures the proper distribution according to an individual’s wish. The document should be written in a consistent manner with the way assets are bequeathed. For instance, if you delegate your sister as the beneficiary to your assets, you can’t bequeath the same asset to another cousin because it may lead to a will contest.

  • Durable Power Of Attorney: It's an important document so that an agent or the person designated on your behalf can act on important matters like real estate transactions, entering into financial agreements, and making other legal decisions. In many cases, the document makes sense for spouses but you can designate another member of the family, a friend, or a trusted advisor as the bearer of the power of attorney.

  • Beneficiary Designations: It’s important to maintain a beneficiary because your assets may be given to your heirs without beneficiary designations in the will. If the will doesn’t contain beneficiaries, then the court will decide for the fate of the funds. The named beneficiaries should be above 21 years old and mentally competent.

  • Letter Of Intent: The purpose of the document is to define what to be done with the asset passed to the beneficiary. Some letters contain funeral arrangements or other special requests.

  • Healthcare Power Of Attorney: The document designates another person, usually a spouse or family member to decide for healthcare decisions in case of incapacity. It’s important to pick someone you trust since this person could have your life. Additionally, a backup agent should be designated in case the initial pick is unable to act as needed.

  • Guardianship Designations: Picking a guardian is very important when you have minor children or are planning for kids. Make sure the designated person is trustworthy, financially stable, and willing to raise children. Without the named guardian in the will, the children may end up with a family member you won’t like or they’ll become wards of the state as per the court’s mandate.

It’s important to clarify the estate planning documents and get an estimate for the cost of a complete estate plan. Also, your lawyer needs to know special circumstances like a family business, a disabled heir, or children from prior marriage.

Furthermore, you can discuss estate taxes with the attorney. The lawyer can assist you in figuring out the payment of estate taxes or provide ways on how to minimize them.

Final Thoughts

The future plans of the will-maker can be predictable when the mentioned tips are considered. With an efficient real estate attorney, all assets will be protected and secured in good hands, leading to the peace of mind of the grantor.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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