What will happen to your asset when you pass on? Have you put in place measures that authorize someone to make financial, legal, or medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and can’t make these decisions yourself?
While these questions are not fun to think about, you should be able to answer them. If you can’t, you need to find yourself an estate-planning attorney to help you establish an estate plan.
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that outline how your asset will be managed or disposed of should you die or become incapacitated. A good estate plan usually has four key things:
- The last will. This document states who you would like to inherit or manage your property when you pass on. If you don’t have a will before you die, the state could distribute your assets. This process can take years and is expensive, which can cause family conflicts or legal battles over your assets after your death.
- A living will states among other things, what type of life-sustaining treatment you would like to be given should you have a terminal disease and are incapable of making medical decisions.
- Healthcare power of attorney. You should have this document done with the living will. It allows a spouse, relative, or anyone you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf when you’re unable to do so.
- Financial power of attorney. Similar to the healthcare power of attorney, this document authorizes someone you choose to make financial decisions for you when you can’t. If you don’t allow someone to do this, your financial obligations may remain pending until you’re able to handle them yourself, something that could cost you.
From the above information, I’m sure you can see why having an estate plan is important.
Most people, however, delay creating an estate plan or never have one because they think they’re too young or don’t have enough money or assets.
Estate planning attorneys and financial experts recommend you start estate planning on reaching 18 years, which is the age you become legally responsible for your health care and finances in several US states, and review the plan every two to five years.
So, if you don’t already have an estate plan, you should organize to get one soon.
In the following section, I’ll share with you a few tips to help you choose a good estate planning attorney.
3 Tips for Choosing the Best Estate Planning Attorney for You
Planning your estate is an important responsibility that you cannot leave to just any lawyer. To ensure you work with the right estate planning attorney, use these tips to choose one.
Look for an attorney that specializes in estate planning
Any attorney can help you with your estate planning because they’re knowledgeable in law. However, you want to avoid a lawyer who is a jack of all trades and look for one whose primary practice area is estate planning.
Such an attorney has most likely mastered the main areas of estate planning and is up to date with current laws and issues in this field. They’re therefore better placed to help you plan your estate.
If you don’t know any estate planning attorney, ask your family, friends, colleagues, etc., if they know one they can recommend.
You could also use websites like the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils to find an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.
Ask about the estate planning attorney’s experience
Once you settle on a short list of estate planning attorneys you would be interested in working with, question them about their experience to find out if they’re qualified to handle your estate.
The attorney could be experienced in handling vast and complex business estates or family and small business estates. Others are also well versed in dealing with estate planning for the elderly.
The number of years the estate attorney has practiced should also interest you. I would recommend that you choose an attorney that has at least 3 years of experience. This is enough time for them to have mastered estate planning laws.
Apart from their experience, other questions you what to ask an estate planning attorney include:
- How much do they charge? Factors such as the attorney’s experience, size, and complexity of your estate will determine what you pay for estate planning. The attorney could bill you a flat fee or per hour. Ensure you know which billing methods they use.
- Do they have any clients you can talk to? It is important to talk to several people who have worked with the estate planning attorney to find out what it is like working with them and the quality of their work.
- Do they work alone or with a team of highly skilled individuals? An attorney that works independently may be slow in preparing estate planning documents, but with a team, this process may have a quick turnaround. Also, an estate planning attorney who has assistants may be preferable because if something happens to them, someone conversant with your estate plan may take over.
- Do they belong to any professional organizations? Professional organizations provided extensive education and lots of networking opportunities. If the attorney you’re considering is a member of an estate planning attorney’s body, it could be a sign that they’re committed to staying up to date with the latest developments in their industry, which is important if they’re to advise you well.
Know this is a long-term relationship
Estate planning is not a one-off thing. You’ll update your plan over the years as your family grows, go up the corporate ladder, divorce, etc. So, after questioning the estate planning attorneys, choose the one you like and feel most comfortable with because the two of you could begin a long relationship that ends at death.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys
To give you peace of mind that your assets will be well taken care of, and to avert potential family conflict should you die or become incapacitated, let Gallagher Krich, APC, help you come up with a comprehensive estate plan.
Our attorneys who have over 30 years of combined estate planning experience can take you through creating a will, establishing a trust, and drafting other estate plan documents. Call us at (858) 926-5797 or book an appointment online with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today.