Estate planning can be a complicated matter. Choosing an attorney who can provide quality services is essential.
When choosing an estate planning attorney, individuals should inquire about their skills and experience, recommendations from trusted sources, and cost considerations.
In addition, attorneys should be up-to-date on any changes to state and federal laws that affect their clients.
1. Initial Consultation
The first consultation is a crucial step in planning your estate. This is the opportunity for you to meet with an estate planning attorney in Walnut Creek, CA and provide information about your family, finances, assets, a list of people to whom you wish to leave your assets or property, and any specific concerns.
In the case of an emergency, you can also bring a copy of any prior estate planning documents you have prepared.
Your attorney should ask questions and discuss your goals, unique circumstances, and options for accomplishing those goals. This conversation will also help the attorney determine if any documents you have prepared need to be updated or replaced.
During the initial consultation, jotting down some of your questions is often helpful. An estate planning attorney should welcome your questions and be able to answer them in ways that you can understand (not in legalese that you have yet to learn what is meant). If they don’t do this, it may be time to find a different attorney.
2. Document Preparation
Although many individuals may not require an attorney’s expertise to develop their estate planning documents, certain circumstances may necessitate the assistance of a professional.
For instance, individuals with small businesses or those who possess out-of-state property should consider seeking the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. It will ensure their legal documents are accurately worded and compliant with state law requirements.
A skilled estate planning attorney communicates complex legal concepts clearly and makes recommendations tailored to clients’ unique situations.
They also stay current on changes to laws related to estate planning and other areas of the legal profession. It may include taking continuing education courses, attending seminars, and reading legal journals.
A good estate planning attorney can also collaborate well with other professionals, such as accountants and financial planners, to give their clients a complete overview of their assets and the implications of their plans.
3. Execution of Documents
A good estate planning attorney provides a questionnaire with an overview of general family and financial information before the meeting. It can help make the session more efficient and ensure important information is noticed.
An experienced estate planning attorney will consider a plan’s tax implications. Suppose a client’s assets are deemed to exceed federal exemption amounts. In that case, the lawyer can recommend legal tools such as trusts and beneficiary-designated accounts to reduce tax consequences.
Additionally, an attorney will discuss the client’s healthcare wishes and create documents such as living wills and health proxies. These documents state a person’s preferences if they are incapacitated and unable to advocate for themselves.
An estate planning attorney will continue to update their knowledge of changes in the law and the client’s situation. They will also review and implement changes to the client’s current plans. It can include adding, changing, or deleting beneficiaries or guardianships. It can also involve amending documents to reflect changes in assets, marriages, divorces, and deaths.
4. Review of Documents
Documentation review analyzes and evaluates existing documentation for accuracy, completeness, and compliance with relevant guidelines and standards. It can be applied to various materials, including end-user content like blog posts and videos or internal documents like policies and manuals.
In estate planning, the document review phase involves carefully analyzing an individual’s financial situation and wishes about state law. It’s crucial to hire an attorney familiar with this work’s legal and tax complexities who will consider your unique needs and goals when creating your plan.
In addition to a thorough document review, it’s also important for individuals and their families to create an inventory of their tangible and intangible assets as well as any real property they own. This information can help an attorney develop a comprehensive estate plan that will address all your legal requirements and wishes. Document comparison tools can make this process faster and more efficient by enabling reviewers to compare any two document versions, along with all comments and annotations.
5. Funding of Trust
Depending on the type of trust, there are many ways to transfer assets into it. A revocable living trust is one way of doing this. However, other types of trusts may serve more specific purposes, such as those designed to minimize taxes or provide protection against creditors. An experienced attorney can help individuals decide which type of trust best fits their financial goals and needs.
Once the final estate plan has been prepared, it is important to fund the trust for it to be effective upon your death. It typically involves executing new title documents for real property, signature cards for bank accounts, and changes of beneficiary forms for retirement plans, individual retirement accounts, life insurance, and other policies.
Then, the trustee can begin managing and disbursing assets according to the instructions provided in the trust. As an additional step, it is helpful to review the plan periodically to account for changes in your situation and ensure that all aspects of the project are up-to-date. An attorney can also help you understand how compensation models work to make establishing proper expectations easier.