While it may seem like something only those nearing retirement or end of life should consider, every adult can benefit from having an estate plan. Every situation is different, but having a plan ensures that your Los Angeles estate and finances are in good hands.
The process of planning your estate involves a lot of work. You’ll need to create legal documents, including wills, trusts, letters of attorney, and more. While it might be possible to do some of these things on your own, you’ll always benefit from hiring a Los Angeles estate planning attorney.
What is an Estate Planning Attorney?
An estate planning lawyer is simply an attorney who specializes in handling estate planning matters. While there are no specific or required certifications to take on this focus, most estate planning lawyers acquire this specialization through years of experience dealing with related issues.
The ultimate goal of an estate planning attorney in Los Angeles, CA is to assist clients in preparing for the end of life and the financial legacy that they’ll leave. Most notably, these kinds of lawyers are known for helping draft wills and setting up trusts. Your lawyer can also help minimize estate and inheritance taxes, transferring your assets to your beneficiaries, and helping to navigate probate if necessary.
An estate planning attorney also helps to ensure that you’re prepared for end-of-life scenarios, especially in the case where you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. These attorneys can help set up living wills, advance directives, and healthcare letter of attorney documents.
With ever-changing laws and tax codes, you must work with a professional. There are a variety of templates available online so that people can write their own wills, but the challenge is that these documents are not one-size-fits-all. Because your situation is unique, you don’t want to trust a cookie-cutter legal document. Moreover, if you make a mistake, it could result in your final wishes not being followed or putting a loved one in a complicated situation after you pass on.
Why You Need An Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning involves more than a will
People often confuse estate plans with wills. While these two terms are closely related, they are two very different things. An estate plan is a set of legal documents that prepare for your death or disability. A will is one of the legal materials included in an estate plan. This plan also includes things like health care or financial letters of attorney, disposition of personal property and final remains, and more.
Save time, energy, and money
While you may feel like planning your estate is more of a DIY project, there is a great deal of time involved. You might spend countless hours finding the proper forms, learning the appropriate laws, and making sure everything is in order. Even finding and adapting online templates takes time. An estate planning attorney Los Angeles professional is already abreast with ever-changing laws, which forms to use, and how to move through the process seamlessly.
Beyond saving time and energy, working with a professional will save you money over the long haul. While it may seem counter intuitive to pay for help to save money, estate lawyers can reduce your long-term fees. If you attempt an entire estate plan on your own and make a mistake, it can end up costing a great deal later on. Estate planning lawyers in Los Angeles California also know how to navigate complex tax codes, which can amount to a great deal in savings.
Since estate planning attorneys are separate parties from your life, they can offer objectivity that you can’t afford to yourself. Your lawyer can act as a new voice of reason regarding current and future estate planning needs. There may also be options outside what you are currently considering. Perhaps leaving your entire estate to a child isn’t the most financially sound plan, and setting up a trust would be better. Being able to look at your situation with a fresh set of objective eyes is a huge help.
What Goes into an Estate Plan?
1. Your will
A will is probably the primary document that comes to mind when planning your estate. Your will lays out who you want to take over your assets after you pass away. It also helps ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. If you have children under eighteen, your will also states who will become their guardian. You can distribute your property to a single person, multiple people, or a charity. You are not required to leave anything to family members if you don’t want to. How your assets are handled is entirely up to you.
If you do not have a will, decisions about your assets, property, and minor children are made by a local court. Even if you’ve given verbal instructions to a close personal friend or family member about how you’d like your estate handled, a court makes the final decision absent of an official will.
Trusts are primarily arrangements that hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary. There are a variety of kinds of trusts, so it’s essential to work with a qualified estate planning lawyer in Los Angeles to ensure they are set up correctly. Some trusts, called revocable trusts, can help your estate avoid probate. Other trusts, known as irrevocable trusts, help to limit exposure to estate taxes. Of course, there are pros and cons to each kind of trust. The best step is to talk to a professional who can help you determine if a trust is right for you and which type will best accomplish your goals.
3. Powers of Attorney and Living Will
A durable power of attorney provides someone of your choosing the legal authority to act on your behalf. The person you select should be someone that you trust to work in your best interest if you are incapable of doing so yourself. If you do not appoint an agent or attorney-in-fact, the judge will either appoint one for you or will make the necessary decisions in court.
4. Letter of Intent
Beyond the legal documents and beneficiary designations, you should also consider drafting a letter of intent. While this document will not supersede a will and doesn’t carry any real legal weight, it helps your loved ones cope after your passing. A good letter of intent contains account numbers, passwords, PINs, and more. Typically, a copy of your message would go to the executor of your estate as well as your spouse or trusted family member.
The Bottom Line
Planning your estate involves countless, complex decisions. Hiring a Los Angeles estate planning attorney is the best way to make sure your plans are complete, legal, and followed after you’re gone. Working with a professional means knowing that you won’t have to worry about what happens to your estate and assets. While it may not be pleasant to consider your own end, there is no better time than now to start planning for the future of your loved ones.