Estate Planning Lawyers | Opelika Office
3120 Frederick Road, Suite B, PO Drawer 2268, Opelika, AL 36803
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Wills and Trusts are powerful estate planning documents that allow you to name beneficiaries and provide instructions on how your assets should be distributed to them after you pass away or become incapacitated. Wills are validated in probate court (also known as a surrogate’s court) and can contain burial instructions, funeral arrangements, and more. Trusts can allow you to avoid probate court altogether by naming trustees to distribute your estate in place of a court or judge.
Power of attorney documents allow you to name third parties to tend to your affairs during your lifetime. For example, a financial power of attorney allows you to designate a trusted individual or company to manage your bank accounts, stock brokerage accounts, and other finances. A power of attorney can be limited or durable depending on whether you would like to specify how long it lasts and to what extent, or whether you intend for it to be permanent and unconditional. It can also allow a third-party designee to manage your real estate and other tangible and intangible properties.
Living Wills and/or Healthcare Directives relate to medical treatment during your lifetime, especially during incapacitation. For example, you can name a loved one to make life-and-death decisions for you, including whether to pull to plug or to accept medical treatment or surgery from a doctor or hospital on your behalf. These types of estate planning documents, like powers of attorney, are only effective during your lifetime.
An estate planning attorney may provide a free consultation, and subsequent work may be performed on a flat fee or hourly basis. The total cost of these services will depend on the complexity of your estate and the extent of documents that you need to have prepared. For instance, if you don’t own much property and only intend to create a simple will to dispose of small personal assets and provide for funeral instructions, your cost may not exceed a few hundred dollars. A more complex will combined with a trust, can run into thousands of dollars, depending on your needs. Other documents, such as powers of attorney or medical directives, can be prepared on a flat-fee basis. However, hourly fees can vary depending on an attorney’s years of experience.
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. An estate planning lawyer can help you decide which kinds of documents are right for you; a law firm can also guide you toward the best legal strategies to use to minimize your estate taxes and provide the most for your future beneficiaries.
In legal practice, experience matters. An experienced attorney will likely have handled issues similar to yours many, many times. Therefore, after listening to your situation, the attorney should have a reasonable idea of the time line for a case like yours and the likely resolution.
Prepare for your consultation by writing down notes of your understanding of the case, jot down questions and concerns for the attorney, and gather your documents. Remember that you are trying to get a sense of whether the attorney has your trust and can help you address your legal issues. Questions should include how the attorney intends to resolve your issue, how many years he/she has been practicing law and specifically practicing in your area, as well as how many cases similar to yours the attorney has handled. It can also be helpful to broach the subject of fees so that you understand the likely cost and structure of your representation by a specific attorney and/or legal team.
The more experienced a lawyer is in legal practice, the more likely he/she will be able to bring about a successful resolution to your issue. Since experience matters, lawyers who’ve been practicing law for many years (with a successful track record) tend to be in high demand. You should look for information about a lawyer’s experience and ask questions during the initial meeting. It’s a very good idea to ask the lawyer how many years he/she has been practicing law and the expected outcome of your case.
Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.
Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.