You undoubtedly know that an estate planning attorney can help you create your estate planning documents, however, estate planning — at least competent and comprehensive estate planning — has never been all about the legal documents. May people I speak with are unaware of the numerous other components of the services provided by a strong estate planning law firm. To make sure you know when to seek the advice and assistance of an estate planning attorney I put together a list of some common topics that typically fall under the purview of an estate planning attorney’s area of practice.
- Keeping an estate plan up to date and working as intended. After your original plan is created, you will want to continue to nurture your relationship with your attorney throughout the course of your lifetime. Along with routine reviews, you will likely need to make important changes to your estate plan, and it is best to have an attorney who knows you and your assets when those changes need to be made.
- Ensuring that assets are owned properly and beneficiary designations are in sync with the plan. As I mentioned, it’s not just about the legal documents. The way your assets are owned and organized in critical to ensuring that you plan works as intended. Remember, planning is not about what your legal documents say, it’s about what the do! At Clarity Legal Group we not only review client legal documents, but perform a funding audit to ensure that the way the plan works is what is intended.
- Probating an estate. When someone dies, his or her estate must go through the legal process known as “probate” following the death. If the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament prior to death the individual named as Executor in the Will is responsible for overseeing the probate of the estate. If the decedent died intestate, someone needs to volunteer to oversee the administration. Either way, it can be a complex, and time-consuming job which is why most Executors turn to an estate planning attorney for help.
- Planning for asset protection. No matter the lever of your wealth, you’ve work hard to earn, build and save that wealth. Good planning includes looking at how to protect what you own from unnecessary taxes and from creditors and to do the same for those who inherit from you. .
- Long-term care (Medicaid) planning. There is a very good chance that you will one day need long-term care (LTC) – and the odds increase dramatically the longer you live. If you plan to self pay for long term care or have long term care insurance, a good estate planning attorney can counsel you about the best way to organize your assets and plan your budget. For the average person, the cost of LTC can be prohibitive given the fact that neither Medicare nor basic healthcare insurance will cover LTC costs. Medicaid will cover LTC expenses if you qualify. An estate planning attorney can help ensure that you qualify through Medicaid planning tools and strategies.
- Investigating and educating regarding retirement communities. Many people get to a stage of life at which it makes sense to consider moving to a continuing care retirement community. The financial and service structure of these organizations is different from place to place. At Clarity Legal Group and other good estate planning firms, we can give you an objective and educational take on any community you might consider.
- Petitioning for guardianship over an elderly parent. If a parent is no longer able to safely make decisions and/or handle finances, it may be time to consider petitioning for guardianship over your parent. The decision, and the subsequent legal process can be heart-wrenching and time consuming. To make it easier on you, ask your estate planning lawyer for help.
- Protecting your family pet. If you have a dog, cat, or other animal that you consider to be part of the family, an estate planning lawyer can help you provide for your pet in the event something happens to you.
- Planning for a child with special needs. Any direct gift left to a child with special needs could jeopardize much needed assistance from programs such as Medicaid and SSI. Creating a special needs trust, however, can protect the gift while still allowing your child to maintain eligibility for state and federal assistance programs.
- Trust administration – acting as Trustee. If you suddenly find yourself faced with the prospect of administering a trust because the Settlor appointed you to be the Trustee, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. The good news is that an estate planning attorney can help you fulfill your duties and responsibilities as Trustee.
- Dealing with family disputes. It is not uncommon for families dealing with the struggles of caring for an elderly family member or even the grief of a family member who has passed away to find themselves in conflict. When emotions run high, a good estate planning attorney can guide a family through the circumstances, build consensus, and reduce stress. The best thing to do in these circumstances is have a share understanding for the the who, what and why of the next steps to be taken, and your estate planning attorney can facilitate this process.
Contact Durham Estate Planning Attorneys
If you think you might need the assistance of an estate planning attorney, please contact the Realeigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Triangle Area estate planning attorneys at Clarity Legal Group by calling us at 919-484-0012 or contact us online.
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