After spending a lifetime accumulating significant personal assets, the last thing you want to do is pass away and have the government get its hands on those assets. That is exactly what would happen if you were to neglect to take legal measures to protect your assets into perpetuity on behalf of yourself and your family. The best thing you can do is hire an estate attorney.
The legal measures to which they refer are preparing wills and trusts. That’s all wrapped up in a process called estate planning. The only right way to prepare a proper and legal estate plan is to hire a trust and estate lawyer to take care of it on your behalf.
Any licensed lawyer can handle estate planning. However, it’s a process that is best handled by a lawyer specializing in estate planning and preparing wills.
An estate lawyer is a bar-certified and state-licensed attorney specializing in developing estate plans for their clients. That includes drafting and implementing the appropriate legal documents, including wills and trusts. These documents are intended to direct the use of a client’s assets while they are alive and the distribution of their assets to their heirs and beneficiaries after they pass.
In reality, estate lawyers can be divided into two groups: Estate Planning Attorneys and Trust and Estate Litigation Attorneys. Here is a breakdown of the roles each of these groups play in the estate planning process.
Overall, the primary goal of an estate planning attorney is to help clients like you achieve their financial and personal objectives. At the same time, they also want to help clients like you minimize estate taxes charged when assets are passed to heirs and beneficiaries after death. Here are things they can do to accomplish these goals:
- Creation of legal documents such as wills and trusts to specify how the client’s assets are to be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries.
- Helping clients select the most appropriate beneficiaries who will receive various assets
- Employing tax planning strategies to help minimize the impact of estate taxes after death
- Help clients designate persons to have power of attorney over medical decisions and financial issues in case of medical or mental incapacitation.
- Put legal strategies in place that will help protect a client’s assets from exposure to assets and creditors.
While Estate Planning Attorneys will generally focus on the administrative end of estate planning, there have to be attorneys who are able to help clients litigate issues related to their assets and estates. Hiring an attorney specializing in trust and estate litigation would be the best way to address such issues. Here are things they can do to accomplish these goals as litigators:
- Help contest wills. Not all wills are prepared with the best of intentions. When someone feels they were wrongfully mistreated in the preparation of a will, a trust and estate litigation attorney can help clients contest the validity of the will.
- Trust agreements are subject to issues related to trust administration and breaches of fiduciary duty by trustees. A trust and estate litigator can help try to resolve such issues.
- Handling of “elder abuse cases” where an elderly person becomes the possible victim of financial exploitation.
- Handling of disputes related to the appointment of guardianship and conservatorship. This includes the resolution of after-death guardianship over minors.
- When an appointed trusted seems not to be acting in the best interest of an estate, an estate litigation attorney can represent a client or clients to have a trustee removed and a replacement trustee appointed.
You need to know this now: Estate issues can get very complicated. That’s why you really need to hire a trust and estate lawyer to navigate such issues on your behalf. This is especially true of wealthy estates where various assets are listed as part of the estate. Remember, the assets of every estate are to go to heirs or the government. Hiring a good estate attorney is necessary to ensure that the assets go exactly where intended, which is not likely in the government’s coffers.