Find an Affordable Estate Lawyer

Contributor, Benzinga

Estate planning is complicated. The taxes, fees and laws can be difficult to navigate if you’re not a professional. Many people chose to work with an estate lawyer. 

An estate lawyer can help you create a will, set up trusts, reduce your estate taxes and distribute your assets. Start with our guide to learn about estate planning and find an affordable estate lawyer to guide you through the details.

Estate Cases

There are many different components of estate planning. A good estate lawyer can help you navigate every aspect of estate planning so that your assets are transferred in seamlessly. An estate attorney can also work to minimize the amount your beneficiaries will pay in taxes, legal costs and other court costs. 

It’s important to work with an estate attorney that has experience in estate planning. It’s an added bonus if you can find an estate lawyer that has worked with situations similar to yours. Different states can have drastically different laws surrounding estate planning, so it’s also important to work with a lawyer that is familiar with your state’s legal requirements. 

Check out lawyer.com and rocketlawyer.com to find affordable lawyers near you who can help you navigate your estate planning.

Estate Planning

Any assets you have acquired throughout your life are considered your estate. This can include real estate, investment portfolios, cars, art and other personal belongings. Estate planning is deciding which people or organizations will inherit your assets after you’ve passed away or are no longer able to manage them yourself.

Part of the estate planning process is also considering your wishes for care should you become disabled or no longer able to care for yourself. It’s also important to designate your wishes for how your family and loved ones will be cared for when you are no longer around. 

Sitting down and creating an estate plan with your attorney can take anywhere from an hour to a few weeks. It’s important to remember that estate planning is an ongoing process. You may need to continuously adjust your estate plan if your family circumstances and finances shift over the years. 

Transfer of Assets

You can choose to transfer your 401(k), life insurance, real estate, businesses and anything else you own to whomever you choose once you’ve passed away. How your assets transfer over to your beneficiaries is a crucial component of the estate planning process. The process varies according to how your assets are titled, what type of assets are being transferred and the specific laws in your state.

It’s important to consult with your estate attorney to make sure that all your assets are properly titled. You will also need to outline the specifics on how and when your assets will transfer over. For example, if you have a child that you’d prefer not to inherit your money until they turn 18, your attorney can make the arrangements to ensure this happens. 

It can take anywhere from several months to a few years for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. The timeframe ultimately depends on how large your estate is, how many beneficiaries there are and whether there’s any confusion or legal issues surrounding your estate. The best way to prevent your beneficiaries from waiting for a long period of time is by creating a will or trust. 

Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are the 2 main documents you can rely on to execute your estate plan once you are no longer around. Your estate attorney can help you write your will so that it’s clear, legally binding and in accordance with local laws. 

Your will should contain information on how you want your assets to be distributed, including to whom and under what kind of circumstances. You can also delegate who will be responsible for managing your assets once you have passed away. If you do not create a will, your assets will be distributed according to your state’s intestate laws. 

Intestate laws vary from state to state. But they generally result in your assets being distributed among your immediate family members. What is certain is that your personal wishes will not be taken into consideration. It’s also possible for your relatives to disagree with the way the state has distributed your assets and go to probate court to settle the matter. All of this headache can be avoided if you create a will with your attorney.

A trust is a legal arrangement where your assets are held for your beneficiaries. You will need to appoint someone to actively manage the trust and distribute the assets under circumstances you have laid out. 

There are 2 main types of trusts: revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust is a trust you can manage and adjust throughout your lifetime. An irrevocable trust will allocate assets to your beneficiaries upon your passing. 

Setting up a trust can help minimize estate taxes and other fees associated with transferring assets. At the same time, setting up a trust is more costly than creating a will. If your estate is valued in the multi millions, it might pay off to establish a trust. It’s best to consult with your estate attorney to determine whether it is worthwhile for you to set up a trust. 

Do You Need to be Present?

The purpose of estate planning is to ensure your wishes for your loved ones are met once you are no longer able to be present. But you will still need to be present for the estate planning process. You are allowed to have family members and loved ones in the room when you consult with your attorney about your estate plans. However, when the time comes to actually draw up the specifics of your estate plan, only you and your attorney are allowed in the room. 

Estate Planning 

It may seem that estate planning is only relevant to people that are older or retired. While it’s never comfortable to think about our passing, it’s important to plan ahead for unforeseeable events. Even if you are young and healthy, it’s crucial to create a plan for your children, spouse, parents and loved ones to be taken care of should you no longer be around. Working with an estate lawyer can bring everyone peace of mind about the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do you need an attorney to settle an estate?

A: You don’t necessarily need an attorney to settle an estate. If you don’t own many assets and your beneficiaries would be your immediate family, you might be tempted to create a will without an attorney or leave no will at all. If this is the case, keep in mind that only an attorney will be able to properly advise you on estate planning. If you leave matters to your own hands, your assets and loved one’s fates might be subject to state laws in the event of your passing. 

Q: How long does an executor have to distribute assets?

A: It’s impossible to accurately predict how long it will take for an executor to distribute assets. The timeline depends on your state’s laws, the size of the assets, the number of beneficiaries and other specifics related to your case. 

Q: What happens when you inherit money?

A: When you inherit money, it’s possible that you will need to pay taxes on your inheritance. Consult with an accountant or estate attorney for advice on how to move forward.