What Does an Estate Planning Lawyer Do?
An estate planning lawyer will arrange first of all for your estate to be valued. This involves establishing the total value of everything including your property, your money including shares, investments, and savings, your possessions, including cars and jewelry, and any business interests you may have.
Having valued your estate, your estate planning attorney will work to establish your wishes on how those assets should be transferred after your death. They will facilitate all the required legal documents such as your will - including a living will where required. If you wish, they can also set up trusts to manage assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. If you have underage children, an estate planning lawyer will also handle your wishes for guardianship of your children should they be left with no surviving parent. A good estate planning attorney will also work to maximize the assets that can be passed to your beneficiaries by minimizing your tax burden. They can also help you to set up power of attorney should you lose your capacity to make decisions prior to your death, and they can assist with business succession planning too.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney?
The cost to hire the best estate planning lawyer for your needs will depend on the complexity of your estate and what exactly you are hoping to achieve.
If your affairs are relatively straightforward, you can use an estate planning attorney charging a flat fee for drawing up certain documents such as a will, a guardianship document, and power of attorney for financial and healthcare decisions.
If your affairs are more complex or your estate is of a high value, your estate planning lawyer will probably charge an hourly fee, which will typically range from $250-350 per hour.
Undoubtedly skilled estate planning can be expensive in complex situations, but the money you spend on a good estate planning attorney will be worth it to have your legacy protected.
Tips for Hiring an Estate Planning Lawyer
Nobody likes to think about their own death, but It will save time and money if you are very clear about your wishes before you hire an estate planning attorney.
Before choosing a lawyer, take some time to consider exactly how you want your assets to be transferred, who your beneficiaries will be, and what other wishes you would want to see carried out after your death.
Once your wishes are clear in your mind, a personal recommendation is always a good way to choose an estate planning law firm.
However, another good option is to use a specialist attorney directory like our State Bar Attorney Directory.
We list thousands of respected estate planning attorneys across the United States, and we make it easy for you to search for an estate planning law firm near you. Because you can also read reviews right here within the directory, it’s easy to narrow down the most trusted estate planning lawyers in your area.
It’s advisable to speak to several estate planning law firms before you make your final choice - and always get written confirmation of the expected fees and charging structure before your attorney starts work.
FAQ on Hiring an Estate Planning Lawyer
1 - Do I really need an estate planning attorney? Can’t I just write my will myself?
Yes, of course, you can if you wish. You can buy ready-made will templates to help you with this and if your affairs are very straightforward, this may be sufficient.
However, if you have young children or difficult family dynamics, or if you have business interests or multiple properties, you should consult an estate planning attorney at least in the first instance. They will advise you on how they could help, and you can then make an informed decision on whether or not to hire an estate planning lawyer.
The other problem with doing without an estate planning attorney is that people often just don’t get round to writing a will themselves, because, let’s face it, it’s not a fun activity, and one that we try to avoid thinking about.
If you die intestate - without a will - your property and assets will still be distributed to your next of kin, but this process will follow standard rules which may or may not match what you would have
liked to see happen. By hiring an estate planning attorney now, you can have peace of mind for the future.
2 - What is power of attorney and why do I need to set it up?
Power of attorney is a complex area of law, but setting up power of attorney can bring great peace of mind and it is often part of the estate planning process.
Essentially power of attorney is a legal document in which you invest someone else (the agent) with the power to make certain decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make those decisions yourself.
Typically, you might grant someone you trust, often a relative, power of attorney to make financial decisions on your behalf, and/or to make medical decisions and decisions about your care, should you become incapacitated for whatever reason.
A good estate planning attorney will explain the various power of attorney options to you and will set them up as required. Although you don’t have to have this safeguard in place, it does bring peace of mind that should you develop advanced dementia, for example, someone you trust will be able to take care of your interests.
3 - What is a Living Will and do I need one?
A Living Will is a document created while you are of sound mind setting out exactly what you wish to happen to you should you be medically incapacitated or nearing the end of life. For example, it may specify the circumstances under which you would or would not wish to be resuscitated and circumstances in which you would or would not wish to receive life-sustaining treatment. It can also cover issues such as tube feeding, mechanical ventilation, and organ donation.
A Living Will differs from power of attorney because it directly expresses your wishes, rather than delegating those decisions to your agent.
Setting up a living will is a profound experience and you should consult an estate planning attorney to help guide you through the process. An estate planning lawyer will also advise you on the differences between a living will and power of attorney, and which option might be best for you.
You do not have to create a Living Will, but doing so would relieve the pressure on your family members should the worst happen, as they would not have to guess - and potentially disagree with one another - about what you might have wanted.