Regardless of whether your estate planning needs seem distant in the future or imminent and now, finding and trusting the right estate planning attorney from the very beginning is very vital.
Planning for who should receive your estate and assets is so important and necessary. Make sure you find the right attorney who can have meaningful conversations with you, who can ask you thought provoking questions, who can deliver high quality estate planning documents in a short period of time, and who can do all of that at a fair and transparent price. Please allow us to take you on a tour of the crucial aspects that must be considered before you choose an estate attorney. Let’s get started.
1. What Does An Estate Lawyer Do?
Let’s begin with the basics!
An estate planning lawyer, also known as a probate attorney after someone passes away, designs and creates an estate plan with and for the client. Together, the attorney and the client talk through important issues such as asset distribution, who will inherit, how will they receive their inheritance, when whey the assets get distributed to the beneficiaries, who will make pre-death decisions if the client loses capacity, and other critical decisions.
Then the estate planning attorney creates the estate planning documents, such as wills (AKA Last will & Testament), Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney, Directives (AKA Advance Directives, AKA Pull The Plug Documents), Pre-Need Guardianship, Burial/Cremation Instructions, HIPPA Waivers (AKA Medical Release Powers), and other important estate planning documents.
After someone dies, you would hire a probate attorney to help take the Will before judge in a court of law. The attorney helps collect information and guides the client through the process. They would go to court to have the judge prove up the will, then the executor would get appointed, then the court would issue letters testamentary, then the executor is tasked with carrying out the wishes of the decedent (AKA deceased person) as described in the person’s Will.
2. Do They Focus On Estate Planning Only?
Some attorneys don’t do any estate planning, some do estate planning only sparingly and infrequently, and other attorneys spend the bulk of their time doing estate planning and probate.
It’s our recommendation that clients seek an attorney who spends the bulk of their time as a lawyer doing estate planning. We believe those types of lawyers get to read, see and experience more issues so that they can have a well rounded perspective on how to do the best estate planning for a given client. Truly each client is different, so a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works and can often backfire. That’s also why we discourage people from using an online DIY do-it-yourself approach.
It’s only your life savings, right? For that reason, we highly recommend the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney.
3. Why You Need An Estate Attorney
An attorney can ask you guided questions. An attorney can help you spot issues. An attorney can help find blindspots. An estate planning attorney does this all the time, but a client may only do it once in their lifetime, or maybe a few times, so which one do you think is better equipped to think through the issues? When you’re dealing with your life savings, a small miscalculation can have a major impact. Here are some situations that prove to be very difficult, yet most DIY’s don’t typically think about them, nor do they know who to remedy them: blended family situation; spouse getting cut out; kids getting cut out; surviving spouse disinherits her step-children who were your children; children inheriting $1 million at age 18 and then blowing it on partying, peer pressure, substance abuse, divorce or creditors; IRA beneficiary mis-titling; etc. There are so many ways that people can unintentionally disinherit people or leave the right people their money in the wrong way or at the wrong time.
It can be very expensive to clean up estate planning errors and mistakes. Or worse, it may never get fixed the way your had intended, and so your beneficiaries who got hosed will harbor ill feelings against you or someone else (step-mother, sister, brother, cousin, child, etc.) for the rest of their lives. We have seen many families completely torn apart from poor estate planning. It can be very tragic and sad, so we highly recommend seeking a qualified attorney who can help you with all of your estate planning needs.
You can call, email or visit Mike Massey Law online (www.mytxwills.com) or at any of our locations in Texas. Our estate planning attorneys and probate lawyers work hard for our clients. We would be honored to speak with you.