Death is inevitable. Whatever position you have in life, you will eventually come to the crossroad between life and death, sometimes you get to pick to live but in the end, no matter what you do, you will end up in the other side. It is for this reason that all people, including you and I, need to secure our money and our assets as soon as we can so that we will be able to protect our families to become financially stable in the event that we pass away. Whatever worries you have about your assets and its security, as an estate attorney and human being, I feel you.
An estate attorney can help you in your endeavors to secure all the things that you have worked for your entire life. The planning and organizing where your money and physical possessions will go after you die is an important thing that you will have to do while you are young and mentally functional. By planning ahead with the help of a professional, you will be able to minimize the expenses that your beneficiaries have to pay, most especially the taxes from the amount of your estate left for them to claim.
There are various types of planning your estates and whatever type you decide to take on, an estate attorney will be there guiding you. One of these is the medical directive, which is a legal document that states your decisions regarding health care surrogate. This paper of proof will allow a certain individual you have chosen to take over your belongings, your personal needs and will make decisions for you in times that you are incapable to.
Another type is the planning for death. This may sound so grim to most people, but this is the most common type of estate planning. This kind ensures you that your debts, if there are any, will all be paid, leaving your family debt free when you pass away and it will also ensure you that your beneficiaries will get what you have in store for them. Your estate attorney will be making your legal will and will be managing it after your death.
How to Choose an Estate Attorney
Selecting an estate planning attorney is an important task, but how do you go about it? The best ones usually don’t advertise in the Yellow Pages and finding one online is not much easier.
The first question is, what exactly are you looking for? Some attorneys specialize in wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and durable powers of attorney, for people without taxable estates, some prefer the high-net worth crowd, and some are best for settling an estate after the individual has died. There are different skills involved in each one.
Basic Wills. The lay public always thinks they only need a “simple will”. Therefore, it should only cost $100, right? Well, if you wish to hire a live, flesh-and-blood attorney, you need to expect to pay more than that if you want a good job done. Otherwise, you should just purchase an online will or a computer program to do your will. While it is true that virtually all attorneys these days use computerized forms as a starting point, don’t forget that what you are really paying for is the judgment and experience of an attorney to spot issues you didn’t know about and to make sure the document addresses them. Very, very few people really have what I’d call a “plain vanilla” situation; there’s always something: a second marriage where he wants to be sure his kids won’t get left out if he leaves everything to his wife; a child with a disability; a trouble making child involved in drugs or alcohol; a special gift to be made to a charity or educational institution; contingent gifts to various relatives, etc.
Tax-Planning Wills: Attorneys who can prepare tax-planning wills (i.e., where your estate exceeds $2 million) must not only be familiar with all the will drafting skills of the attorneys who do basic wills, but must also have a very strong tax background. They must be intimately familiar with estate tax, gift tax, generation-skipping tax, income tax, plus real estate law and the partnership and LLC rules, as well. Since trusts would almost always be involved in a plan of this type, they must be trust drafting and administration.
Why You Need an Estate Lawyer
In the unfortunate time of death of a loved one, fulfilling the will and distributing the assets are not as simple as they sound. Financial and legal matters like taxes, creditors, mortgages, burial fees, and other final bills are just some of the issues need to be settled by the family or executor with the help of an estate or probate lawyer. Not all of us understand state laws regarding the distribution of assets and probate. To be able to settle matters properly and avoid disputes, a lawyer will be most helpful in providing legal assistance. Here are the roles of an estate or probate lawyer that will prove to be useful in time of need.
Locate, Determine, and Secure the Assets of the Deceased
The last will and testament of the deceased will be helpful in laying down all the assets and properties of the deceased. This will give a snapshot of the deceased’s overall assets. The probate lawyer will then locate all the assets whether it’s a cabin or vacation home, a bank account, or a business investment. Any outstanding debts must also be located and determined to be able to settle any unpaid balances. He or she is responsible for giving notice to creditors of the death of the decedent in order to make necessary arrangements to settle unresolved financial matters. Also included in the lawyer’s responsibilities is assisting in the preparation of documents, statement of accounts for the audit of court. Any transfer of estates must be documented and prepared. No one can do this best than an estate lawyer who is experienced in this legal process.
Provide Assistance and Advice to Executor
It is not uncommon for family and beneficiaries to have disputes regarding the will and the distribution of assets. To get legal advice and assistance in this case, an executor can feel more confident and secure with a probate lawyer. State laws have its provisions regarding estate administration. In this case, the best way to handle disputes is to rely on the legal process and the knowledge and experience of the lawyer in this area.
Know Your Taxes
Different states and countries have varying laws regarding estate and inheritance taxes. The experienced lawyer can advise you on this. Sometimes, selling the property instead of acquiring it as inheritance will prove to be more practical due to various taxes involved. Estate lawyers will also assist in how and where to get the cash to pay the taxes.
Distribute to Beneficiaries
After taxes, final bills, and other debts are settled, the lawyer is tasked to distribute remaining assets and properties to beneficiaries. This is easy with a last will and testament but without one, a lawyer can get the court’s approval on who will receive the inheritance and how it will be distributed to the heirs of the deceased. If you want a smooth process in this legal matter, always make sure you have an experienced estate lawyer to back you up in the administration and distribution of assets. Having one will help you get things done and over with in no time and with less stress and disputes.
Avoid Probate – Tips For Keeping Estate Assets Out of Court
There are many reasons to avoid probate. Firstly, probate can be a lengthy process that ties up assets and depreciates the estate’s overall value. Most estates require the services of a lawyer or estate planning service to comply with probate laws. It is relatively easy to avoid probate, or at least keep the majority of assets from having to pass through the process. Different strategies exist and depend on the types of assets owned. It is advisable to work with an estate planning expert to determine which options are best for your situation. The most ironclad way to keep assets out of probate is to draft an irrevocable life insurance trust or living trust. When assets are transferred to a trust they are no longer considered part of the estate and thereby exempt from probate.
Trusts are managed by a designated Trustee. Most people designate their self to this position and assign an estate administrator to take over in the event of their death. Trusts are generally reserved for estates valued over $100,000. If your estate is valued at less, there are strategies which can keep certain assets out of probate. The first step is to execute a Last Will and Testament. This can be as simple as purchasing pre-formatted Wills at an office supply store or downloading forms from the Internet. Although a Will does not keep assets out of probate, it can expedite the process. If you can afford to do so, it is best to have an attorney draft the Will. Most attorneys charge a nominal fee to draft legal documents. Many lawyers offer additional services such as assisting the designated estate executor in their duties of administering your estate once you are gone. If you do not execute a Will, everything you own will be transferred to probate court and sit there for months on end. Your family will not be able to receive inheritance property and your estate must continue making payments on outstanding debts or mortgaged real estate. Realize your loved ones will be grieving.
Dying without a Will in place only adds more stress and anxiety during a highly-charged emotional event. If you have a checking or savings accounts, go to the bank and ask the teller for Payable-on-Death form. In less than 5 minutes, you can designate beneficiaries and the percentage of funds to bequeath them. For instance, if you have three children and want the monies distributed evenly, simply indicate this on the POD for. In most cases, if you are married and own joint bank accounts funds automatically transfer to your spouse. It is best to assign your spouse as POD beneficiary to avoid potential problems. If you own financial portfolios such as investment accounts or individual retirement accounts, contact your broker and request Transfer-on-Death forms.
Similar to payable-on-death, you can assign beneficiaries and percentage of account proceeds each will receive.
IRA accounts are usually distributed to beneficiaries as a lump sum payment. Investment accounts can be transferred to the designated beneficiary as a roll-over account or lump sum payment. Transfer-on-death can also be used to transfer automobiles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles and watercraft. Not all states allow assignment of TOD beneficiaries on titled property. If your state prohibits transfer-on-death, apply for a joint title and add the intended beneficiary’s name. In the event of your death, the beneficiary can provide a death certificate and transfer the property into his own name. If you are married, obtain joint ownership title for real estate. Joint ownership allows your spouse to automatically inherit the property in the event of your death. If you are single you can bequeath real estate by adding beneficiaries to the property title.
Finally, you can avoid probate by “gifting” property and personal belongings while you are alive. The Internal Revenue Service allows individuals to gift up to $12,000 per person or $20,000 per married couple, per year. Gifts higher than $12,000 in one calendar year require the filing of a federal gift tax return.
Mistakes to Avoid When Drafting Your Will and Planning Your Estate
• Wills are necessary for people of all ages.: One common mistake in estate planning is not getting around to writing a Will at all. At a minimum, you should make sure that you take the time to plan the financial portion of your estate and distribute your assets to your loved ones so they have some amount of security. If you do not have a Will, the state will make decisions for you according to a distribution schedule it has already established. The state tries to pass assets to people it thinks benefit the most, but unfortunately, this may not be in line with your wishes or what is best for your family.
• Wills are necessary for all estates of all sizes; Many people also have difficulty with estate planning because of the misconception that their assets are not large enough to warrant a will. Writing a Last Will and Testament is not just for people with large estates. Most people, when all property and accounts are considered, are worth more than they think. In addition, some possessions may not have great market value, but they do have substantial sentimental value. These are items that you will want to keep in your family, and it is important that you know they will be well cared for.
• Avoid leaving all your assets to your spouse: If you own assets jointly, when you die your spouse is automatically awarded your half of the property. But, what happens if your spouse dies? What will your children receive? What if your spouse remarries? While there may be certain tax benefits to giving all of your estate to your spouse, there are greater benefits to making sure all family members, especially children, are going to be taken care of. Make sure you think about appointing a guardian for your children, a trustee for any trusts you may have established, and an executor for your will. A lawyer with expertise in estate planning can help you plan for all the possible outcomes of your family’s future.
• Creating your own Will does not save in the long run: It may seem like writing your own Will is less expensive, but “do-it-yourself” wills often do not contain all of the required legal components. As a result, they are frequently ruled invalid. A wrongly worded clause, while well intentioned, can result in lengthy legal battles. Also, anyone who might benefit from your will being invalidated can challenge it. If the challenge is successful, your estate may be required to cover all legal costs. The money you save now could cost your loved ones in the future. A Will is a flexible document, and nothing is set in stone while you are still living. Your lawyer can always draft amendments to your Will to take into account changing living and financial situations. Establish a Will now and keep it current so that you and your family know your wishes will be followed.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506