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Do You Really Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

Edge Magazine

You can find a tutorial and a form online for practically everything, so do you really need to hire an attorney to prepare your estate plan? Here are some excuses I’ve heard from people who claim they don’t need an estate plan or think they can handle the preparation of legal documents on their own: We’re not rich . . . My sister knows we want her to raise our kids . . . Aren’t there forms on the internet for that? Have you told yourself the same thing?

If you own property, you have an estate. Property includes a car, a house, a bank account, a retirement account, life insurance, etc. Whether your estate is large or small doesn’t determine whether you need an estate plan. You should decide what happens to your property at your death. The alternative is to let your property pass according to state statute, and you may be surprised to learn what the state intestacy statutes require.

If you do not designate guardians for minor children in your Will, the court will decide who to name. What happens if multiple family members step up and tell the court they want the job? State statutes set forth priority, and where two or more parties have equal priority, the court will select the person it deems best qualified to serve. Do you want to leave to chance whether a judge will pick the person you would have chosen?

Yes, the internet has forms. Do you know what each legal provision means in those forms? Attorneys can explain legalese in layman’s terms. Do you know how to complete the blank lines? Every estate plan I prepare is customized because I have yet to find clients with the exact same circumstances and objectives. Do you know how to properly execute those forms so that they are valid? Whether a document is recognized under state law is not something your family wants to find out after your incapacity or passing. Do you know how to coordinate the titling of your assets and your beneficiary designations to assure your plan works cohesively? A comprehensive estate plan is more than just the legal documents. Do you understand the tax implications of the forms you are signing? Proper estate planning includes the consideration of income, estate, and inheritance taxes.

Is the financial future of your loved ones worth the time and money to plan your estate the right way?

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