Why should you choose a lawyer who specializes in estate planning? For the same reason you should choose an orthopedic surgeon, and not a general practitioner, when you need, say, a hip replacement. When it comes to the assets you’ve worked hard to accumulate the well being and future security of your family, you need a lawyer who specializes in estate planning – one who thoroughly understands the objectives and has the expertise to avoid common disastrous mistakes.
A lawyer who specializes in estate planning understands the goals and objectives and knows how to achieve them.
In the event of your death, you don’t want the assets you’ve worked hard to amass to be mishandled and consumed by legal fees and court costs. You want to pass these assets – real estate, cash, stocks and bonds, and so on – on to your designated heirs and loved ones. And this, the primary objective of estate planning, requires expertise in the various tools and instruments necessary to achieve it.
A second objective of estate planning is protecting your assets from creditors. A living trust is usually the best instrument here. But it takes a specialist to draw one up correctly and advise you on the best species of trust for your particular situation.
Another objective of estate planning is to manage your assets in case you should become incapacitated in any way, generally by a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s. A lawyer who specializes in estate planning can help you construct a plan to relieve family members of the burden of having to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf.
Using a lawyer who specializes will also help you avoid common estate planning mistakes that can profoundly negatively impact your heirs and loved ones. These include:
Most people think they don’t have enough in assets for the value of their estate to reach the high estate taxes valuation threshold. Still, the IRS’s elastic definition of “estate” could mean the taxable assets amount to more than initially thought. And if your case is like that, you may owe a significant amount in taxes. And then you will need a specialist who can help you with alternatives like a gift to reduce the amount of estate taxes.
Another of the major mistakes here is the use of vague/inexact language in drawing up the estate plan, something the non-specialist is particularly susceptible to. Your estate plan absolutely must be drafted clearly and precisely to avoid ambiguity, confusion, and error.
Here’s an example. Suppose your will stipulates that you intend to leave your estate to your “surviving children.” But what if, at the time of drafting your will, you had three children, and one of them is now deceased? That means your two surviving children will then get all your assets. But is that what you really wanted? Maybe you wanted your deceased child’s children (your grandchildren) to receive that share.
Things just don’t remain the same. Marriages fail, businesses go bankrupt, loved ones become addicted or incapacitated, and children become estranged. So a final mistake a lawyer who specializes in estate planning can help you avoid is not preparing for such contingencies.
Usually, divorce and remarriage are most commonly involved here. If your estate plan doesn’t clearly state who gets what, there can be disputes between second spouses and adult first-marriage children. Or if you have yourself remarried and you predecease your spouse, a good estate plan can protect your children from your previous marriage(s).
Estate planning is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly or put in the hands of the non-specialist. For it can hugely impact the quality of life and financial security of your loved ones. The experienced attorneys at Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia can help you protect and preserve your assets and facilitate a smooth transfer. Contact us today.