When many people hear terms like “estate planning” or “living trusts” they reflexively stop listening, assuming that the message has no relevancy for their lives. If you polled any group of ten people, it’s a safe bet that at least half of them would say that estate planning is something that only matters to the very wealthy. In reality, estate planning is something that should be of concern to everyone. It is, after all, the best way for you to protect your loved ones and your interests in case something happens to you that leaves you unable to manage your affairs or care for your family. In spite of that fact, some 55% of Americans have no estate plan in place – not even so much as a simple will. Clearly, that is a problem. Dying without a will or other estate plan can leave your entire estate subject to your state’s intestate laws. That means that you would have no say in the disposition of your property, as the court would transfer your assets to your heirs, using a distribution method governed by the state’s applicable laws. And if your failure to plan for the future included a failure to execute powers of attorney for financial and healthcare matters, your affairs could end up being managed by a court-appointed guardian if you become seriously ill or otherwise incapacitated. You need an estate plan, and that means you need an estate planning attorney to help you get the process right.
What About Online Documents?
Of course, nobody likes to hear that they need an attorney. Most of us like to think that we can manage pretty much everything on our own – especially when there are serious financial costs involved. There are plenty of companies on the internet that understand that basic mentality as well, and many of them offer a variety of different free forms that you can download. They hold forth the promise that you can create your own will, powers of attorney, and even living trusts without ever consulting with a lawyer.
Here’s the problem, though: as with anything else in life, you typically get what you pay for. Free online do-it-yourself documents may sound great in principle, but the concept tends to lose its luster when you consider what is really at stake. These downloadable documents tend to be one-size-fits-all options that are wholly inadequate to the complex issues involved in the preparation of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other critical legal documents.
Remember, different states have different rules governing wills and the probate process. If your DIY effort fails to meet those specifications, your loved ones may have greater delays as they wait for a probate court to sort everything out. An improperly designed or inadequately funded trust could be rendered all but useless. Poorly worded powers of attorney can be found completely invalid, leaving your affairs assigned to a conservator rather than the agent of your choosing.
Why risk any of those negative results when you can ensure that everything is done properly the first time by retaining a competent estate planning attorney?
State Laws Govern All
It is also important to remember that state laws hold sway over estate matters. Unless you want to spend your time learning all of the relevant laws at stake in your estate planning, you really should hire someone with experience handling these issues. There are requirements governing how documents have to be signed, who can serve as a trustee or agent, how documents have to be witnesses, and so on. A mistake in any of these areas could be fatal to your planning efforts. The best way to avoid those mistakes is to rely on a professional.
Unique Circumstances Require an Individualized Approach
Naturally, the most important reason for hiring an attorney is also the most obvious: your life and circumstances are unique. While those formula approaches to wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other documents might seem attractive on the surface, the fact is that no premade form can ever hope to cover all of the individualized needs your complex life presents. In fact, there are so many different issues involved in determining which estate plan is right for you that it is almost silly to think that a one-size-fits-all formulaic approach could even come close to meeting your needs.
Just consider all of the ways in which we all differ from one another. You may be on your second marriage, own real estate in diverse locations, have a desire to donate some of your estate to charity, or simply have assets too considerable to be managed by such simple forms. Or maybe you have children with disabilities, or an irresponsible relative who cannot be entrusted with his large inheritance all at once. Or maybe you have certain conditions you want to attach to the transfer of assets to your beneficiaries. In each of these areas and more, your individualized estate plan needs will be markedly different from most other people.
There’s No Time Like the Present
It is also important that these matters be taken care of at our earliest opportunity. The future is always less than certain, and none of us can know whether we will be here tomorrow, next month, or a year from now. What we can do, however, is ensure that we spend our remaining time secure in the knowledge that we have taken the necessary steps to provide for our loved ones when we are gone. Professional attorneys with experience in estate planning are an essential part of that process.
At Robert Kulas Attorneys at Law, our experienced estate planning team has the expertise you need to guide you through the process of creating an estate strategy that will protect your interests and provide for your family’s needs when you are gone. Give us a call at (772) 398-0720 or contact us online today to discover how having the area’s best estate planning attorney in your corner can help to ensure that your legacy is properly secured.