As you begin estate planning, you will quickly realize that there are a lot of tough questions you need to ask—both of yourself and of your loved ones. However, one of the most important questions you’ll need to ask is: “Should I hire an estate planning lawyer?”
The short answer is yes! Estate planning lawyers can help ensure that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. However, not all estate planning lawyers are created equal. Here are four important questions to ask when interviewing potential attorneys:
(1) What is Your Strategy For Estate Planning?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning, so it’s important to find a lawyer whose strategy makes sense for your unique situation. This question will also give you some insight into the lawyer’s thought process and whether they’re taking a comprehensive approach to your estate plan.
(2) Who Needs Estate Planning?
People often think that estate planning is only for the wealthy. But the truth is, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan. An estate plan is a set of legal documents that provides for the distribution of your assets after you die. It can also spell out your wishes for end-of-life medical care and designate a guardian for your minor children.
Regardless of the value of your assets, you should have an estate plan to ensure that they are distributed according to your wishes. Without a plan, your assets will be disbursed according to state law, which may not be in line with what you want.
If you are young and healthy, you may also think you don’t need an estate plan. But if something happens to you unexpectedly, an estate plan can help ensure that you and your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes.
Finally, even if you don’t have minor children, if you have a spouse, domestic partner, or other close relatives, you should have an estate plan. An estate plan can spell out how you want your assets divided among these people and can provide for guardianship of any dependent family members.
(3) What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of handling the estate of a person who passes away. It is used to resolve all claims and distribute assets to their beneficiaries. The process typically takes 6-12 months to complete but may be longer if the estate is complex or if there are disagreements between the beneficiaries.
To initiate probate, the executor of the estate (the person responsible for managing the deceased person’s affairs) must file a petition with the court. Once the petition is filed, the court will issue a notice to all interested parties (i.e., beneficiaries, creditors, etc.) informing them of the death and directing them to file any claims against the estate within a certain time period.
Once all claims have been resolved, the executor will distribute the assets of the estate according to the terms of the deceased person’s will (if they had one) or according to state law (if they did not have a will). If there are no outstanding claims and no disputes between the beneficiaries, the process can be relatively simple and straightforward. However, if there are disagreements or complex issues involved, probate can be a lengthy and arduous process.
(4) Do I Need Any Other Documents in Addition to a Will?
Typically, wills are not enough—you may also need trusts, durable powers of attorney, or advance directives (also known as living wills). A good lawyer will be able to advise you on whether these additional documents are necessary and will help you create them if they are.
If you have any questions about estate planning or need help formulating a plan, contact us today to schedule a Free Initial Meeting. The attorneys at Scarola Law can help put a plan in place to give you peace of mind.