Estate Planning

SUMMARY

An estate planning lawyer specializes in estate planning and assists clients in drafting and implementing legal documents such as their wills, trusts, and ancillary documents such as durable powers of attorney, health care directives and living wills.  State law affects which specific documents are needed and how the documents are worded.  Estate planning law is closely related to family law, since lawyers often must work with related individuals that may be affected by the estate.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

By Julie Garber 

Updated August 06, 2016 

An estate planning attorney is a type of lawyer who, through years of mentoring, continuing legal education and experience, understands how to advise clients on getting their affairs in order to prepare for the possibility of mental disability and eventual death.

What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do? 

Estate planning doesn’t begin and end with a last will and testament. An attorney specializing in this field will also draft living trusts, develop a plan to mitigate or avoid estate taxes, and work to ensure that your life’s savings and assets are safe from your beneficiaries’ creditors after your death.

He can prepare powers of attorney and health care directives, arranging for someone to take care of your affairs in the event you should ever become mentally incapacitated. He can help you avoid guardianship or conservatorship issues if you need someone else to look after your affairs. 

What Qualities Should You Look For in Your Estate Planning Attorney?

  • A general practitioner may not have the experience and specialized knowledge to assist you with your unique family and financial situations.  Look for someone who devotes his practice to this area of the law.  
  • You should feel very comfortable sharing intimate details of your life and your concerns with him so your estate plan doesn’t fall short of your expectations and needs. 
  • Your estate planning attorney should be well versed in and up to date with the laws of your state. Otherwise, your estate plan may ultimately be deemed invalid by the court. 

What Should You Expect to Pay for Your Estate Plan?

Be prepared to pay somewhat higher legal fees to have your estate plan created, maintained and updated by someone who specializes in this area of practice. You’re paying for the attorney’s expertise accumulated over years of working with a variety of different clients and taking a multitude of continuing legal education classes.

 As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

Attorneys with limited or no specific experience in estate planning, as well as non-attorneys, are more than willing to sell you revocable living trusts through what the media refers to as “living trust mills.” If an attorney’s fee seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Your estate might stand to lose far more money in the long run than the cost of paying a qualified attorney now. If estate taxes come due that could have been avoided, or if a contentious probate process drags out after your death, incurring even more court and legal fees, your loved ones may wish that you had simply spent the money to plan ahead instead. Then, of course, there’s peace of mind. How much is it worth to know that when you die, things are going to go exactly as you intended if you have the help of an experienced estate planning attorney? 

Take the time to find and hire an experienced and respected estate planning attorney.

HOW OUR FIRM WORKS WITH ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEYS

Chris Morris

Updated 9/28/2016

At CMA Financial Services, we work with several different estate planning attorneys, and we are happy to meet with each client’s estate planning attorney and review their documents if asked to do so.  

Two estate planning attorneys we work with are traditional estate planning attorneys that create wills with testamentary trusts along with durable powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney for health care and a living will or health care directives.  One of the estate planning attorneys we work with prefers to use living trusts and a pour over will with the standard ancillary documents.  A fourth estate planning attorney we work with specializes in helping business owners structure their existing businesses for sale so they get the maximum dollar possible and so that they can combine their business valuation with their estate plan to minimize estate taxes and maximize cash flow to the family.

Each of these attorneys can use FLPs, LLCs, QPRTs and other traditional estate planning documents to help minimize the estate taxes clients may owe.  They also prepare the necessary estate tax returns when needed.

We do not have any attorneys on our staff, nor does CMA Financial Services offer estate planning for our clients.  We simply help our clients vet their existing attorneys and when appropriate, refer our clients to attorneys to take care of their estate planning needs.

We also contract with at least one of our estate planning attorneys to review our clients’ estate planning documents.  These attorneys also create flow charts to easily communicating how the plans work in a clear and concise manner to our clients.