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What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the practice of using legal documents to plan for the distribution of a person’s assets after death or incapacitation. An estate planning lawyer can help you create directives to be used in probate court for determining your beneficiaries and loved ones, who can inherit from you estate.
There are benefits to using estate planning documents such as wills, living wills, living trusts, revocable trusts, powers of attorney, and medical directives. With estate planning, you can streamline or avoid the probate process, minimize or avoid estate taxes, provide for your long-term care and health care, develop asset protection, and achieve peace of mind for yourself and your family.
What Is Probate?
If you pass away without planning your estate, a probate court (also known as a surrogate court) will follow state law to determine how your assets should be distributed after your death. During this process, a probate lawyer will review legal issues for proper estate administration without a will or trust that would have otherwise guided the court to distribute your assets.
If an estate planning attorney drafts a will for you during your lifetime, it can be used to streamline the probate process after death and help the court dispose of your assets pursuant to your wishes. On the other hand, if your estate lawyer creates a trust alongside your will, probate (and going to court) may be avoided altogether by your trust.
Should I Hire Estate Attorneys for my Estate Planning Needs?
While probate laws vary across different jurisdictions, proper estate planning, such as those legal services that an elder law attorney can provide, can help you navigate estate planning laws in your state. Most law offices that handle these practice areas offer free consultations or flat fee arrangements so that you may apprise yourself of their years of experience and obtain relevant legal advice.
A law firm can meet your estate planning needs by creating documents to account for your real estate, personal property, your special needs such as your preferred nursing home (or avoidance of one) during incapacitation or other elder care scenarios, health care proxies, Medicaid planning, and more.
During an initial consultation, an attorney can also help you understand the overlaps between probate law, family law, and personal injury across the various states such as California, New York, and New Jersey. Because state law and individual circumstances are unique, hiring an estate planning attorney is advised especially if you own substantial assets and want to properly plan your future (and your family’s future) accordingly.