To some people, the prospect of putting together their estate plan may be akin to medicine they know they need, but view as downright unpalatable. However, a skilled and experienced estate planning attorney can make the process of planning one’s own legacy a rewarding, and even pleasant experience. More importantly, a little effort and expenditure of relatively modest legal fees can prevent much family anguish and unnecessary expense later for heirs or other beneficiaries.
If you don’t bother to execute a will, the state of your domicile will create one for you effectively, under its laws of intestacy. You may be surprised at how your state intends to divide up your assets should you not provide specific direction. Even if you feel you don’t have much to pass on, you may want to consider donating certain funds or items to a favored charity, or passing down cherished mementos to friends, as well as (or instead of) your next-of-kin heirs.
For those with substantial estates, consider the potential conflict, costs and family discord that may come with probate litigation. An experienced estate planning attorney can steer you into documents to minimize that risk.
While federal estate tax exemptions are at extraordinarily high levels currently, many states impose estate taxes or inheritance taxes that can severely diminish what your beneficiaries could inherit. Most estate planning attorneys can map out a plan or propose alternatives to eliminate some or all of these taxes as well as probate fees.
In addition, most estate planning attorneys also guide clients in matters that could prove critically important during life, via powers of attorney and advance medical directives (also known as “living wills”). Should you neglect to get those in place, you could run the risk of needing a court-appointed guardian to take charge of your health or finances should you become incapacitated.
Many estate planning attorneys can answer your preliminary questions – – and alleviate any anticipatory queasiness – – on these and other matters in an initial consultation, often without charge, and tell you the steps needed for making and documenting your crucial estate planning decisions. Completing the process will give you peace of mind, knowing that you’ve taken control of matters that may have an important impact on your own future well being and the security of those you care about.