An “estate” is a term that refers to all of the property, real or personal, that is owned by an individual prior to its distribution via a will, trust, or intestate succession.
What is Estate Planning?
“Estate planning” refers broadly to the process by which the owner of property, during his or her life, determines how his or her property will be distributed after their death.
The reasons for this are varied, but, quite simply, most people want to have some say during their life over who gets their property after death, whether they want to ensure that surviving family members are provided for, or see that most of their money goes to their favorite charity.
How Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help?
An estate planning lawyer can help a client draft a will, ensuring that their wishes are followed as closely as possible. There are many common pitfalls that come with laypersons drafting their own wills – either the required formalities will not be met, or the drafter might inadvertently introduce ambiguities into the will, which could keep it tied up in probate for years.
In addition to simply drafting wills, a good estate planning lawyer can help the client keep his or her finances in order during his or her life, set up trusts, and structure the estate plan to minimize estate taxes. Some (though not all) estate planning lawyers have backgrounds in accounting, banking, or finance. They can bring this experience, combined with their legal education, to bear on a wide variety of estate planning issues.
Furthermore, estate planning attorneys can prepare clients and their estates for contingencies that the client might not foresee. For example, what if a beneficiary dies before the client? It should be written into the will or trust who will take the property, in such an event.
That is just one example, and there are many others, which may or may not apply to an individual client, which should be considered.
Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you manage your assets in life, and ensure that your wishes are conformed to in death. If you have any doubt about whether you need a will or trust, you should contact an estate planning attorney today.