Eight Questions to Ask Your Estate Lawyer
Estate planning requires considerable thought and expertise. There are several things about the process that you will need to understand for it to run smoothly. To assist you, we have compiled a list of eight questions to ask your estate lawyer.
Once you have found an estate planning lawyer who is a good communicator and well-organized, ask them the following questions:
1. What is probate and why do I want to avoid it?
Simply put, probate refers to the legal process where a person’s estate is documented, administered and made public through the state’s court system. There are fees associated with the probate process, including personal representative fees, attorneys’ fees, and court costs, that can otherwise be avoided if trusts and/or non-probate transfers are used. This is just a brief description. Get a full understanding of probate so that your estate goes to the people you intend it to and doesn’t get overly fined and taxed.
2. What items do I need to consider when creating an estate plan?
In life, you have responsibilities and goals. These need to be included in your estate plan so that when you pass, there is nothing missed. Things to consider include:
- Protecting your spouse, children and dependents in the event of your death or incapacitation
- Distributing your estate to the correct people
- Business responsibilities for corporations you are a part of
- Caring for your pets
- Caring for you during any periods of your incapacity
3. What is the difference between a Last Will and Testament and a Revocable Living Trust?
These are two important tools your estate lawyer uses when putting together your estate plan. A revocable living trust will allow you to avoid probate for your assets that are properly funded in your trust. A last will and testament has many uses. One of its main purposes is to state your wishes for your belongings after you pass, however, any assets passing pursuant to your last will and testament will be going through the probate process. Your estate lawyer can explain how these work and the differences between them.
4. What happens if I do not have any estate planning?
In the unfortunate event that you pass without an estate plan, how would your estate be distributed? Would it go to your loved ones? Your ex-wife? The state you live in? And, what would happen to your kids? Each state has laws that designate the distribution of your assets if you have no documentation in place and it’s in your best interest to get this question answered completely by a professional.
5. Who should I appoint as Trustee/Personal Representative/Attorney-in-fact?
Each of these jobs hold great responsibility. The person you pick to perform these tasks should be trustworthy and knowledgeable of the things they need to do. Find out what each job is and what they are responsible for. It would be best to get the viewpoint of your estate lawyer when it comes time to appoint them because you want to make sure that your wishes are appropriately carried out by the named individual(s).
6. How often should I review my estate plan?
Life changes. People marry. There are divorces. Perhaps you get a new retirement plan with a new job. There are many things that can affect your estate plan. Any time that there is a significant life change, it is important to consult with your estate lawyer. If there are no significant life changes, you should still review your estate plan at least every couple of years to make sure that your plan still matches your desires.
7. How do I protect against my children/beneficiaries wasting their inheritance?
What can be done to make sure that your children or beneficiaries act responsibly with their inheritance? There are different ways this problem can be addressed, including but not limited to, spendthrift trusts, appointing a third party to manage the assets for their benefit and staggering distributions.
8. What happens if I become incapacitated without a Financial or Medical Power of Attorney?
If you become incapacitated without a financial or medical power of attorney in place, no one will have the right to make decisions on your behalf unless someone is appointed as your guardian and/or conservator. The guardianship and conservatorship requires a petition to be filed with the court, and subsequent hearings to determine (i) whether you are incapacitated, and, (ii) if so, who the court determines to be the best person to manage your affairs. To avoid a court’s determination of what it believes to be in your best interest, there are two legal documents you must take care of. Your estate lawyer can help you with these. It is necessary that you appoint someone to be responsible for your finances (Financial Power of Attorney). And, you must make someone responsible to make medical choices for you (Medical Power of Attorney or Medical Directive or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care).
Understand the Process
We will help you create an estate plan that protects your assets and ensures that your wishes for your estate are met. Contact us today for a free consultation. As an experienced voice, we can guide you. Contact us today or call us at (636) 386-8322.
Located in Manchester, Missouri, we proudly serve clients throughout the St. Louis area such as Chesterfield, Wildwood, Earth City, Maryland Heights, Ellisville, Ballwin, Manchester.