A Guide to Working With an Estate Planning Attorney

As people enter the workforce, they tend to accumulate assets. Over time, a person may watch as their estate grows. During this time, people also often marry and have children. Deciding what to do with one’s assets in the event of a sudden fatal illness or as people age is an important task. By law, certain specific things must be kept in mind. This includes how much the spouse and children are entitled to once the person passes on. It also includes the payment of any debts that might be attached to the estate. Many people have other issues they want worked out as well. This includes monies given to charity as well as funds that may be designed for a certain goal such as the person’s final expenses. All of these decisions have legal consequences. This is why it is best to speak closely with an estate planning attorney. 

Finding an Attorney

Locating an attorney is a crucial part of the process. There are many ways to find someone with the right background. Contacting the state bar is a good way to begin the search. Those who’ve worked with an attorney in the past can contact the attorney and reach out for recommendations. Some lawyers work specialize in this field while others may do so as part of a larger field of practice. For a simple case, a non-specialist might be just right. For a more complicated cases with many claimants and a large sum of money, someone with an extensive background might be the far better choice. 

Proper Documentation

Once deciding on the right person, it’s best to make sure to have as many documents on hand before the first meeting. An estate planning attorney can give people a list of the kind of documentation they might need. For example, a detailed list of each stock owned can make the person’s assets clear. The same is true with any assets the person has. This may include all real estate as well as other items that may have any value. They might ask for a list of jewelry, art and rugs as well as other items that might have some significant value. Many people also have items that have sentimental value that they would like to leave to specific members of the family as a reminder. A lawyer may also ask for other items such as a list of any outstanding debts such as car payments, remaining student loans and any credit card balances that must be paid off from the estate before any bequests can be doled out. 

All People Involved

It’s also important to make sure each party involved in the state is listed in any estate planning. Certain people may have inherent rights to the estate. A surviving spouse is entitled to a significant portion of any jointly held assets. They are also entitled to have the assets they brought the marriage such as a house they bought before getting married. The estate attorney will make it clear what kinds of laws apply to each member of the party. This includes any children who were born during the marriage as well as any agreed upon obligations to any stepchildren of either party. The same is true of any additional parties such as long-term employees, co-workers and any grandchildren. The attorney will make sure that any issues related to any heirs to the estate are worked our during any meetings. 

A Flexible Agreement

Working with an estate attorney also has another advantage. As circumstances change, so too may the estate. It can grow in value over time. Sometimes connections may be broken. Two people may no longer be in love and wish to divorce. In that case, one party may no longer be entitled to any piece of the resulting estate. The estate attorney can work out an agreement that can be changed over time. They can also work out an agreement that also considers issues such as any state and local taxes that may be due when someone passes away. This kind of careful legal planning allows each person to dispose of their assets as they see fit.

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About the author: Wifred Murray

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