When you die, the assets you’ve accumulated during your lifetime have to be distributed. If you don’t make a plan, your family may be left to clean up a legal mess, quarrel amongst themselves, or watch as a long-lost family member is given everything by a court decision.
An estate planning attorney helps clients, by making sure that the distribution of property after the person dies is done the way they wanted it done. While a plan may be simple or complicated, says the New Hampshire Union Leader in a recent article, “Estate planning is important and may require help from a professional,” working with an experienced estate planning attorney will save your family time, unnecessary costs and stress.
You definitely need to work with an attorney if your life falls into any of these categories:
- Your estate is valued at more than the federal gift and/or estate tax applicable exclusion amount ($11.4 million per person in 2019);
- You have minor children;
- You have loved ones with special needs who depend on you;
- You own a business;
- You have property in more than one state;
- You want to donate to charities;
- You own valuable artwork or collectibles;
- You have specific thoughts concerning health care; or
- You desire privacy and want to avoid the probate process.
First, you need to understand your situation, and that includes factors like your age, health and wealth. Your thoughts about benefiting family members and taxes also need to be considered. You’ll want to have plans in place should you become incapacitated.
Next, think about your goals and objectives. Some common goals are:
- Providing financial security for your family;
- Preserving property for your heirs;
- Avoiding disputes among family members or business partners;
- Giving to a charity;
- Managing your affairs, if you are disabled;
- Having sufficient liquidity to pay the expenses of your estate; and
- Transferring ownership of your property or business interests.
If you have minor children, your will is used to name the person you want to raise them, known as a guardian. You might find that a trust is a useful tool for providing financial oversight for them. Remember that many of your assets pass to heirs through beneficiary designations, so part of your overall plan needs to include reviewing these every few years. Remember that your estate plan needs to be reviewed every three or four years, as laws—and lives—do change.
Reference: New Hampshire Union Leader (July 27, 2019) “Estate planning is important and may require help from a professional”