Do I Need the Help of an Alabama Estate Planning Attorney?
This article originally appeared at: https://www.sarahsshepard.com/blog/alabama-ep-attorney
If you’re getting ready to do your estate planning in Huntsville, AL, you will need an experienced Huntsville attorney.
Estate planning is no easy feat as there’s a lot involved, from evaluating your assets to establishing wills, trusts, and other directives to ensure those assets are managed appropriately should something happen. This isn’t someone you should take on without professional help, simply because you’re bound to make mistakes.
When estate planning, mistakes happen. The state could take assets over, and beneficiaries could miss out on financial security.
So, if you think you can get by without the help of an Alabama estate planning attorney, read this before you notarize and file anything away.
What Does Estate Planning Involve? Estate planning revolves around protecting your assets and ensuring that your family is taken care of should you pass on early or become mentally incapacitated due to an unforeseen health event.
When we talk about your estate , we generally mean anything you own of significant value that can be evaluated and assessed to give you a total net worth. This would include your property, business, car, vacation home, artwork, family heirlooms, cash, financial securities, stocks, retirement accounts, etc. These are things that you want to be handled appropriately when the time comes.
All your assets, including your home, make up your estate’s overall value. This value becomes relevant during three specific life events, if or when they occur — bankruptcy if you become mentally incapacitated or when you pass away.
Therefore, estate planning involves planning for future scenarios so that your assets don’t end up in the hands of the state’s probate court. So, when it comes to planning your estate, there are certain things you need to do and certain things you need to consider.
Here’s what you need to consider:
What is the estimated value of your total assets? This would include tangible and intangible assets from your home to your retirement accounts. This value is important regarding your potential estate taxes and how you’ll want your assets distributed later.
Your family’s needs. You want to ensure that your family will be cared for should something happen, especially if you have young children. So, you’ll need to think about whether you’re leaving enough behind for them and that you can name a trusted guardian to care for them if needed.
Which directives you’ll need. Wills and trusts are the standard directives that most individuals use to plan their estate. However, your Huntsville attorney would advise you to establish a power of attorney (POA) and a medical care directive.
Who are your beneficiaries? Obviously, your spouse and children would be your beneficiaries. Still, you may also want to consider other close family members and even friends. You can also name charities as your beneficiaries if you wish. More importantly, you’ll need to decide who will receive what when the time comes.
How much your estate taxes will be? Planning your estate ensures you can leave as much behind as possible for your beneficiaries. Therefore, you’ll need to minimize the amount of your estate that will be lost to estate taxes.
Keep in mind that these are just some things you’ll need to consider to get started. You would still have to write out all of your directives, have your properties and other assets appraised, etc.
What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do? An estate planning attorney is a licensed and experienced professional specializing in helping individuals plan their affairs to ensure that the management and distribution of their estate go as planned, according to their last wishes.
An estate lawyer’s most important thing is to ensure that everything has been officially documented and notarized so that your last will and any other directives you choose to draw up remain legally solid. They cannot be contested by anyone left out or deemed illegitimate in probate court.
Estate planning attorneys also ensure that your directives are set up properly. As a result, your named beneficiaries receive their assets directly and promptly. They also guide you through the different types of directives and which are most suitable to ensure that you have all your bases covered should something unexpectedly (or expectedly) go wrong.
Another essential thing that estate attorneys do is help you save money on estate taxes, probate court fees, and inheritance taxes.
For example, the greater the value of your estate, the more you’ll owe in taxes in the end. Therefore, your Huntsville attorney will likely advise you to create trusts for specific assets and beneficiaries, which will reduce the overall value of your estate and thus reduce the estate tax that will be owed.
Moreover, your estate planning attorney will have a comprehensive understanding of the Alabama state laws and the federal laws that determine how your estate is inventoried, appraised, distributed, and taxed when the time comes. They’ll make sure that you understand everything you need to know from start to finish, including how the probate process works so that your family is prepared.
In a nutshell, here is what your Huntsville attorney will help you with:
The drafting and documentation of your last will and testament
Designating your beneficiaries and their inheritances
Establishing a durable power of attorney (DOA) and medical DOA should you become mentally incapacitated and unable to handle your affairs
Guide you on ways to help your family avoid a lengthy probate process
Setting up any trusts that are necessary to protect your assets — to benefit you during your lifetime, in the event of incapacitation, and your beneficiaries after you’ve passed on
Offer advice on whether a legal business entity, such as an LLC would benefit you with asset protection. (This is usually if you own a business and want your business income, shares, or ownership to be transferred to a beneficiary)
Walk you and your family through the probate process
Help you and your family minimize estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and potential gift taxes
You can also appoint your Huntsville attorney as the executor of your will and even your trusts to ensure that your property and assets are protected, all necessary debts and taxes are paid, and that any accounts are correctly managed before they’re transferred their ed beneficiary. Just keep in mind that executors are usually given a payment from the estate for taking on the responsibility — which is something your Huntsville attorney will undoubtedly discuss with you as well.
What Are the Benefits of Having an Attorney Take Care of My Estate Planning? By now, you understand how much is involved in estate planning. When you attempt to plan your estate alone, you’ll likely miss out on one or more of the above, not to mention that you risk filing your documents wrong. Of course, there are plenty of downloadable templates online, but those templates are not a one-size-fits-all option. The templates can’t help you make important decisions as a Huntsville attorney can — nor can they safely store officially notarized documents to keep them safe for you.
Let’s talk about all the benefits of having an attorney take care of your estate planning:
They understand that each state has different legal requirements. Online forms tend not to be state-specific, which means you could run the risk of filling out the wrong forms and missing out on specific requirements for the state of Alabama. Additionally, there are different laws regarding asset allocation, especially if you own an LLC.
They can help you make modifications with ease. However, so much can change in just a tiny amount of time, which means you’ll eventually need to update your will and other documents. In addition, making modifications to your will can get complicated quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s best left up to an experienced professional.
A Huntsville attorney can guide you through each step. When you plan your estate with an experienced attorney, they’ll walk you through the entire process and ensure that your bases are covered, right down to the last detail. They’ll also ensure that every document is filed and stored correctly so that they’re effective when the time comes.
They can help settle any disputes, especially with the probate court. Disputes are bound to happen, especially when it comes to sizable assets. You’ll need someone there who has nothing to gain from your estate and can remain impartial. They’ll also be there to vouch for you or your family in court should someone attempt to contest your will or should probate court have an issue with certain documents.
An attorney will keep your documents safe. When you work with a Huntsville attorney to plan your estate, it’s their legal duty to keep a copy of your official estate plan. This is a form of reassurance that your affairs will be settled according to your last wishes no matter what happens. Without an attorney, you won’t have a backup for your estate if your documents are destroyed.
They can serve as your right hand. In all of your directives, you’ll need to appoint a power of attorney, an executor, etc. This person needs to be trustworthy and up to the task. When in doubt, you can nominate your Huntsville attorney to take on the job to ensure that your directives are managed appropriately and that your assets are distributed accordingly.
Hiring a Huntsville attorney to help you map out your entire estate and plan for the worst of times is the most critical thing you can do for yourself and your family. In fact, no one should forgo the help of an experienced professional when it comes to estate planning in Huntsville, AL, if they want to ensure that their last wishes are carried out effectively.
When Should I Hire an Estate Planning AttorneYey? It goes without saying that most people could benefit from working with an estate planning attorney, even in having what’s considered a small estate . If you’re unsure of when to hire an estate planning attorney or why here are the most common situations during which they would be most beneficial:
You’re a small business owner or partner that needs to plan for business succession
You have assets or property out of state
You have assets or properties out of the country
You want to transfer certain assets to someone who isn’t a legal US citizen or want to name a non-US resident or citizen as one of your executors
You want to leave behind a charitable trust for your donations
You want to disinherit your immediate family or spouse
You have a blended family, such as stepchildren who you want to ensure receive certain assets
You have close family members with special needs or that need to qualify for certain government benefits
You plan to set up an irrevocable trust to protect certain assets
Suppose you’re wondering whether there’s a certain point in your life when it’s only natural to start planning your estate. In that case, the general answer is as soon as possible. Estate planning is vital when you have a family to think about. The right time depends on what you own and who you have.
So, do you need the help of an Alabama estate planning attorney?
Yes, you do. Estate planning is a long and involved process that you don’t want to risk making mistakes with. When you’re ready to start planning your estate, get in touch with us to schedule a consultation with Sarah S. Shepard or another experienced Huntsville attorney.