Reasons Estate Planning Should Be Done With An Attorney

Estate planning is something that must be accurate, or it can cause a number of problems for your loved ones. While it’s true that an individual may be able to handle a simple will on their own, even a simple will can lose its power if not executed correctly. In most cases, though, the owner of a large property will need more than a simple will, especially if there are a lot of assets to distribute or if the owner wants to place conditions on transferred property.

How can an attorney help with estate planning?

A will is the most basic document a person can use to grant property to beneficiaries. A will names an executor, guardians for minor children and a new owner for any remaining pets. A will also dictates how property should be used to pay debts and can act as a backup for a trust. In general, it is unwise to set restrictions on assets in a will. It is also unwise to leave detailed instructions or dictate alternative methods for transferring property.

The problem with a will is that any mistake can completely nullify its power. If a person names the wrong executor or tries to give power of attorney to an ineligible person, it will force the property into probate, which is considered an undesirable outcome. An attorney with knowledge of state laws can keep this from happening. Every state has its own laws pertaining to will structure and who can execute a will, so it’s better to have an expert on your side.

In most cases, the property owner has some unique circumstances that require a more detailed touch. If any of the following conditions pertain to you, an attorney may be needed to steer the process:

  • You plan on leaving property behind for charity
  • You have no children or minor children
  • You are leaving property behind to “problem” relatives or children
  • You divorced recently
  • You own a business
  • You are taking care of a disabled loved one
  • Your assets are subject to an estate tax

With a basic will, it will be impossible to address these situations properly, which will likely force intervention from a probate court. An attorney can help an owner fashion a living trust or more detailed will to ensure proper handling of these cases.

In some cases, probate is unavoidable, even with detailed estate planning. This typically happens when there is no will or when family members dispute the contents of the will. Probate courts intercede and divide up property, and their decisions are not always equitable for all sides. If you are a beneficiary who is facing probate court, it is best to have an attorney on your side. This will ensure you receive what you are entitled to and speed up the process, which will reduce the cost of court proceedings.

This article was published on Friday 09 January, 2015.

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