If you’ve entered this new year and still haven’t made up your mind about how to proceed with your estate planning efforts, then you’re certainly not alone. More than half of adults in this country still don’t have even a simple will, let alone a more comprehensive plan to protect assets, guard against incapacity, or manage asset distributions to heirs when they die. 2017 could be your year to finally get those protections in place, however – and if you do decide to address the issue in the coming months, you’ll need all the help you can get. In fact, there are six important reasons you need an estate planning attorney to help create your strategy.
Estate Plans Rely on State Laws
Your estate plan is not just something that can be thrown together in any way you choose. These plans are ultimately impacted by state laws that have various instructions and restrictions about how they are to be created and what they can contain. There are rules about how they must be signed and witnessed, what can be in trusts, who can serve as your personal representative, and other formalities.
In Florida, for example, you can only name a relative or a resident of the state to serve as your personal representative. If you name a non-relative from another state, he or she won’t be approved to settle your estate when you die. Mistakes like that can have a negative impact on your estate plan. The best way to avoid those types of errors is to work with an experienced attorney throughout your estate planning process.
Estates Can be Complex
You might think that you can create your own will, trust, or other estate planning tools, but you should seriously reconsider before making that decision. The fact is that many of us have unique circumstances and complex needs that require a more experienced approach to planning. Issues like second marriages, divorce concerns, business interests, property in other states, minor children, and heirs with disabilities can all require the use of special estate planning tools and strategies. Without formal legal experience, most laypeople don’t understand which options they need or how those tools can be applied to benefit their planning and their heirs.
Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help with More than Just Wills
One of the biggest mistakes most people make is assuming that they can get by with just a will – or in many instances, without any plan at all. That causes them to avoid using an attorney, since they figure that they can just create any type of will or just leave the settlement of their estate to the probate court when they die. That can cause those people to miss out on one of the most important benefits any estate planning attorney can provide: a comprehensive approach to planning.
Your estate planning attorney can not only help you create a will, but he or she can also analyze your circumstances and needs to determine whether other important options might also be beneficial. For example, if you have minor children or an heir with special needs, you might need an irrevocable trust to properly provide for their future. If you have business interests, you should have a solid succession plan in place, as well as asset protection strategies to protect all your financial interests. These and other benefits can be a part of your estate planning strategy, but only if you rely on a professional lawyer to assist you in your efforts.
DIY Tools Can’t Provide Any Guarantees
Do-it-yourself wills, trusts, and other planning tools are becoming more popular. Unfortunately, though, these alternatives to professional legal documents are not all they’re made out to be. That shouldn’t come as a surprise either, especially when you consider that everyone’s situation and needs are different. How could any form document possibly be flexible enough to accommodate the millions of different family circumstances that might be encountered. The answer is obvious: it can’t. The simple reality is that there are no guarantees with a DIY estate plan, and many who go that route end up paying attorneys to fix their plans later.
Without a Professional Plan, Your Assets Might Be at Risk
We live in an incredibly litigious society, where people can seemingly be sued for just about anything. Obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. The problem is that when someone sues you, they are generally trying to gain access to your assets. Without the right protections in place, those assets are vulnerable to loss in the event that any judgment is rendered against you. An experienced estate planning attorney can help to protect those assets using various asset protection strategies. That can help to ensure that your wealth is protected even if you’re unfortunate enough to be on the losing end of a civil judgment.
The Alternative Could be a Disaster
Finally, there’s one reason that overrides all others: without the help of an experienced lawyer, your estate and your heirs could face disastrous consequences. If, for example, you fail to create any estate plan, then your estate will be settled in accordance with the intestate laws of succession – and that could mean that your wealth goes to the wrong heirs. Of course, that can happen if you create your own estate plan and it is eventually voided due to mistakes. Either way, the result is the same: state law will determine how your assets get distributed, and your personal wishes will have no impact on those decisions.
The best way to avoid that outcome is to rely on the assistance of a professional with the experience needed to create the right plan for your needs. At Robert J. Kulas, P.A., Medicaid & Estate Planning Attorneys, our team can ensure that you get the estate planning help you need to safeguard your assets, provide for your heirs, and deal with all your other long-term and end-of-life needs. To find out more about how an estate planning attorney can help you in 2017, contact us online or call us today at (772) 398-0720.