Regardless of your age, wealth, or marital status, it is a good idea to have an estate plan in place. Your plan will include legal documents that direct how your assets will be distributed after you die or what happens if you become incapable of caring for yourself. Most people choose to work with an estate planning lawyer to walk them through the process.
If you have not done any advanced planning before meeting with a lawyer, they will likely give you some homework to do. Some decisions they will ask you to think through might include:
- Who will take custody of your children?
- What charities would you like to support?
- Who will serve as your executor?
- How much medical intervention do you desire if you cannot communicate?
- Who will make medical decisions should you become incapable?
- Where would you like your physical assets to go?
- How much money would you like to leave to specific people?
- Have you updated the beneficiaries on accounts?
Estate planning lawyers are knowledgeable on tax law. They can help you set up your legal documents to limit estate or inheritance taxes for your heirs.
If you are a business owner, a lawyer can help you create a succession plan should something happen to you. This might include leaving it to a co-owner, passing it on to someone in your family, or selling it.
Lawyers have very specialized expertise and get compensated accordingly. The cost of their service will vary widely depending on the size of your estate. A basic will and power of attorney can run from $500 to $1,000. If you need to set up a trust or other legal documents, it can get more expensive.
Depending on your age when you create a will, things may change over time. You can rely on your lawyer to make any necessary updates. It is a good idea to review your estate plan annually or after any significant life change.
The best way to find an estate planning lawyer is through word of mouth. Ask your friends about who they have used and if they felt good about the process. Otherwise, find local attorneys and reach out about a consultation. Once you find someone you feel comfortable with, you can begin planning. Having an estate plan in place will give you peace of mind and protect your loved ones from added stress upon your passing.