According to AARP, one in four American adults do not have an estate plan in place. And, while the ostrich approach might be appealing to some as they consider end-of-life decisions, without this important documentation your assets may not be dispersed to your loved ones as you desire.
While it is possible to create an estate plan without the help an attorney, there are several good reasons you should think twice before taking the task on yourself. Here are just a few instances in which legal assistance is important to create estate planning documentation.
If you plan to leave some of your estate to adopted or step children, you need to have this clearly defined in your estate planning documents. This is especially important if you are also gifting to biological children. If your will simply says that you are providing part of your estate to “your children,” without defining the individuals that are considered children, adopted or step children may be excluded by the executor of your will. Similarly, if there are children you do not wish to include in your estate plans or you will not be gifting each child equally, this information must be clearly spelled out in the documentation. An attorney will be able to create a plan the clearly states your intentions, leaving little room for misinterpretation.
As the name implies, depending upon the laws of the State in which the trust is managed, without a court order and the consent of the trust grantor and beneficiaries, an irrevocable trust cannot be canceled once the papers are signed. Typically, an irrevocable trust is used for gifts that benefit a spouse, child or grandchild and provide specific tax benefits for the grantor. By making the trust irrevocable, the grantor relinquishes control of the assets to a trustee so that they can avoid taxation of the trust property and protect the assets from creditors. Because of the complexity of this type of trust, it is imperative that an attorney create the proper language to separate the trustee and the grantor within the trust.
If you wish to hold assets within a trust until specific stipulations are satisfied, utilizing the expertise of an attorney is advisable. Additionally, creating a trust for the life of a beneficiary or for a disabled beneficiary might also require more finite legal knowledge.
Creating an estate plan often comes with a variety of intricate situations which require the use of an attorney. Every family is unique and every state has different requirements for estate planning matters. While it might seem cost effective to take matters into your own hands, having a trusted estate planning attorney will ensure that your estate is settled in a manner which brings you honor. If you have estate planning questions, contact the team and McLario, Helm, Bertling & Spiegel.