You may question the value of an estate planning attorney. After all, you can just download a generic template last will off the Internet. It’s simply a matter of filling in the blanks.
In reality, estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
Let’s look at some of the circumstances that families typically face.
Access to Funds
If you use a will to transfer assets to your loved ones no one will receive their inheritances until the estate has been probated. This can take months at minimum, and there are probate cases that take years.
Your family will not have access to funds that you have left behind until the probate process has run its course. And, disgruntled parties could challenge the terms of the last will during probate.
This can delay things even more, and the expenses that are incurred would be steadily eroding the value of the estate.
You can arrange for asset transfers to your loved ones in a more timely and efficient manner by creating a revocable living trust with the assistance of a licensed estate planning attorney.
Creditors, claimants, and former spouses can seek to attach funds if they are not properly positioned. If you simply create your own last will you are doing nothing to protect assets.
Let’s say that you have someone in the family who is not a good money manager. If you name this person in your will and leave a direct bequest the spendthrift could squander his or her inheritance quickly.
It is possible to create a spendthrift trust that would involve the appointment of a trustee to manage the funds. This trustee would make distributions to the beneficiary according to your wishes as stated in the trust agreement.
The spendthrift would not have access to the principal, and these assets would be protected from creditors.
Government programs that people with special needs rely upon have eligibility requirements. They are intended for people with very limited financial resources.
To leave behind something for someone with special needs you must implement some advanced strategies. If you simply name such an individual in your will you could wind up jeopardizing this person’s benefit eligibility.
Small Business Succession
What if you own a small business? Do you want the business to remain in the family? Are you going to give it to a particular heir? What about the rest of the family, how do you balance inheritances?
Clearly, small business succession planning requires some legal assistance.
These days a significant percentage of marriages end in divorce. If you have children from a previous marriage and you get remarried, there are some estate planning ramifications.
Providing for all the people you love when you are a member of the blended family take some specialized planning.
When you consider the above you recognize the fact that each family has its own dynamic. When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney you can be sure that you are using the legal devices that appropriately address your specific concerns.
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Ryan M. DenmanandDennis D. Duffy
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