Top Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney During a Consultation
Estate planning is not something that is “one and done.” Your assets, beneficiaries, and needs may change over time. You want to ensure your attorney can work with you as those changes happen.
It’s also important to understand how your lawyer charges. This will help you decide if they are the right fit for your needs.
How Much of Your Practice Is Estate Planning?
When attorneys focus their practice on estate planning, they can become the “go-to” lawyer in a community. That is because they provide a valuable service that helps families prepare for their future and protect their loved ones during an uncertain time.
Attorneys specializing in estate planning can often help clients avoid probate, save money on taxes, and ensure their wishes are respected after they pass away. They also can create revocable living trusts and other documents that help people protect their property from creditors, divorce and lawsuits.
Prospective clients must understand how much an attorney’s practice focuses on estate planning. This will help them determine whether the attorney can handle their needs.
It is also important to find out if the attorney offers flexible fees or flat rates. This will allow clients to budget their services better and ensure they receive the best possible advice. Many attorneys will provide a free consultation to ask questions and get to know the client before quoting a fee.
What is Included in an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a collection of legal documents determining how you want your property managed and distributed after your death. It also names a personal representative to handle your affairs.
There are many different components of an estate plan, and your exact composition will depend on your unique situation. But most programs will include a last will, a power of attorney, and possibly a living will.
Depending on your situation, your estate planning attorney in Oakland may create trusts to hold and manage assets for beneficiaries such as minor children or incapacitated adults. Trusts can help reduce the cost of estate administration and protect assets from creditors.
If you own a business, your estate plan should address how it will be transferred upon death. You should also consider whether any liquid assets need to be kept in reserve to pay estate expenses and debts or to keep the business going if you choose to do so. Consider whether you want to make any charitable gifts. Finally, it would help if you decided who will have power of attorney over your financial and medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
What Is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Planning?
Probate is the legal process determining how someone’s estate and assets are distributed to their inheritors after death. Estate planning is the preparations and instructions you put in place to make that distribution process as easy on your family as possible.
In the most general terms, an estate consists of everything you own and control. It includes all your property, such as real estate, bank accounts, and personal possessions like cars and jewelry. The estate also contains any debts you still owe, such as mortgages or credit card balances.
If you die without a will, the court decides how your estate is distributed according to state intestacy laws. The probate process is open to the public and can be expensive and time-consuming.
A good estate plan will include a trust to avoid probate. This can effectively keep your affairs private, reduce taxes and protect your family’s financial security. A well-designed trust will also help your heirs manage and maintain the assets you leave behind. For example, a house may automatically pass to your spouse, or you might designate it to children or grandchildren.
How Long Will It Take to Create an Estate Plan?
An effective estate plan is an ongoing process that should be reviewed and updated regularly. A good estate planning attorney should be able to recognize changes in your family and financial situation and adjust your documents accordingly. They should also be knowledgeable about changes in the law that may impact your situation.
When constructing your estate plan, your lawyer should take the time to thoroughly go through all of your property and identify important assets such as your house, automobiles, bank accounts, retirement investments, life insurance policies, and personal possessions that hold sentimental value, such as jewelry or artwork. A lawyer who takes this time will be better able to provide an accurate picture of your assets and make recommendations on how to protect them.
An experienced attorney should also be knowledgeable about federal and state laws related to probate and how they affect your situation. They should be able to recommend strategies to minimize or avoid the need for probate, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
What Are Your Fees for Estate Planning?
Understanding how an attorney charges for their estate planning services is important. Some attorneys charge flat fees, while others bill by the hour. Ask the attorney for their rates during your initial consultation and if they offer a free consultation.
To begin estate planning, you should list all your assets and liabilities. This list should include bank accounts, investments and valuables such as land, machinery, vehicles and retirement accounts. Also included are mortgages, loans and credit card debts.
Your attorney will then help you to plan how to manage your assets throughout your life and transfer them to your beneficiaries at your death. Create a living trust that allows you to share your assets during your lifetime while still being the owner.
A knowledgeable attorney can help you create an estate plan that meets your needs and complies with the state laws. Asking the right questions during your first consultation will help you to find the best lawyer for your case.