“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

You may not think you have enough assets for estate planning to matter.  Perhaps all you have is your primary home. You may be a widow, with a few adult children who enjoy visiting you often with your grandchildren in tow. They all get along well with each other. They should be able to sort things out after you pass away, right?

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If you do not have an estate plan in place at the time of your death, your children may have trouble sorting out your estate. Let us discuss three reasons why you need at least a last will and testament in order to ensure your estate is passed on to your heirs as you would see fit.

1. Without a Will, You Die Intestate. If there is no will, you are considered to have passed away intestate. Your assets will be divided according to the intestate laws of the state, and signed off on by the judge. State intestate laws often distribute assets according to the level of familial relationship of any person surviving the person who passed away. This may not be how you wish for your assets to be distributed.

2. Your Children May Not Agree. No matter how well your kids get along, they may not be able to agree on how to divide your estate. Each child may mean well and think he or she knows what you wanted, but his or her interpretation of what you wanted may differ from the rest of the family. A will is a way to ensure they all know what you wanted, and everyone is on the same page.

3. It is Not Just About Money. Leaving a will can be a way to minimize any family squabbles that may arise during an emotional period for your children and grandchildren. A last will and testament can be a way to help your loved ones, so they can focus on supporting each other and on their memories of you.

If you need assistance establishing a strong estate plan, we are here to help. Please contact our office to schedule an appointment time.

Do you have a new year’s resolution to handle estate planning, such as update your will or set up a trust, but do not know where to start? Let us review a checklist of 5 actions you can take to achieve your goals:

1. Catalog your assets and debts. List valuable items you own. Examples may include real property, such as your home or other land you own, and personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles, art, laptops, equipment. It can include intangible assets too, such as investment accounts and life insurance policies. Separately, create a list of your debts, for example, mortgages, auto loans, home equity lines of credit, and other obligations. 

2. Select your trusted representative. Estate planning often requires several representatives, such as a personal representative to follow your instructions about your assets after you pass away. An estate attorney can offer you guidance in selecting these representatives as they can play an important role in the probate process and other circumstances.

3. Complete your documents. In addition to a last will and testament, a central part of many estate plans, you may also want to create a trust or trusts. Work with your estate planning attorney to develop the documents that work best for you and your needs.

4. Share the documents. First, you can share your lists of assets and debts with trusted loved ones, such as the person who you expect to be your personal representative or your spouse. It helps to include account numbers, agreements, and contact information for each item listed. Next, give copies of your completed documents with your attorney and personal representative.

5. Review accounts and documents. Review retirement accounts, insurance policies, and memberships. The listed beneficiaries take precedence over direction given in a will or trust, so update beneficiary information regularly. You should also review the documents you created at least once every two years and after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child in the family. 

For more assistance developing a strong estate plan, our office is here to help. Please reach out to us today to schedule a time to meet.

How do you choose a nearby estate planning attorney? Choosing the right estate planning attorney for your family can be an essential part of planning for your future and preserving your legacy. Consider what is most important to you in this regard. Do you have a complicated family situation that requires your estate to be divided unevenly among children or other relatives? Are you concerned about passing down property located in multiple states? These are just a few situations in which it may take a discerning hand to draft your estate planning documents appropriately. Whatever your situation, when choosing an estate planning attorney, it may be important that your choice be experienced in working with individuals and families in a similar situation and stage of life to you.

When considering how to choose an estate planning attorney, consider a potential attorney’s experience in estate planning. Many attorneys practice in multiple specializations, providing services including the writing of wills, real estate closing documents, and divorce agreements to their clients. If you live in a rural area without many attorneys, this sort of attorney could be a valid option, particularly if your choice has a good reputation in your community. In suburban and urban areas with many attorneys to choose from, however, it can be wise to look for an attorney who specializes in estate planning. 

An attorney with specific estate planning credentials is more likely to be knowledgeable about current trends and have a greater understanding of the different techniques that may need to be used to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you desire. Ultimately, if you have the choice, it may be prudent to seek out an attorney who works with clients in similar situations to you. If you have young children, look for someone who works with young families and is experienced in drafting guardianship documents. If you run a family business, perhaps an attorney well-versed in planning for both personal and business succession would be the right choice. When considering how to choose an attorney near you, consider this kind of specific experience. It may not only help your estate planning attorney understand your situation, but it may help you feel more comfortable with the attorney handling your case.

Location matters and that is why it can be important specifically to find out how to choose an estate planning attorney near you. There are thousands of estate planning attorneys in the United States. Some may advertise that they practice in multiple states, or in multiple cities within the same state. Since each state has different rules regarding probate and estate planning, and different municipalities have their own regulations within each state, it is usually best when choosing an estate planning attorney near you to find an attorney who practices frequently in your local area.

Our firm is here to develop strong estate plans for you and your loved ones. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment.

We understand that planning for the end of life, a disability or aging can be complicated and emotional. We are here to help you.

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