The short answer is yes. Specifically, you need an estate planning lawyer. Only an experienced estate planning lawyer will assess your personal situation, be familiar with the applicable laws in your state, and recommend the best structure of estate planning for you. Basic internet searches and standardize templates from a website cannot do that for you.
WHAT IS AN ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER?
An estate planning lawyer has the education and experience to advise clients on preparing their affairs for incapacity and death. Since estate planning is not on the minds of most people day to day, it is best to hire a lawyer who specializes in estate planning.
Cheaper online methods of creating an estate plan do exist, but hiring a professional is the best way to ensure that: 1) your assets are truly protected, 2) your estate plan follows current law, and 3) that your wishes are carried out legally and correctly.
Many experienced estate planning attorneys also offer additional services like financial planning and probate and trust administration.
WHAT WILL THEY DO?
There are many varied aspects to creating an estate plan and they differ from person to person. The right lawyer should take the time to learn about their client before suggesting what sort of estate plan would be best.
Only once the lawyer has learned personal information about the client can the lawyer truly recommend the best estate plan structure. An experienced estate planning lawyer should include the following, at a minimum, in an estate plan:
- Last Will and Testament
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Directives
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- HIPPA Authorization
If you have a lot of assets, an estate planning lawyer may suggest you create a Living Trust. A Living Trust is an entity created during the Grantor’s lifetime to hold and manage assets. There are many advantages in creating a trust, including avoiding probate.
HOW DO I FIND AN ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER?
There are a variety of ways to find the right lawyer for you and your family:
- Word-of-mouth: A recommendation from a family or friend is the #1 way to find a lawyer.
- State Bar: The names of lawyers in your state who have passed the bar exam is public information, so with a bit of research you can find a lawyer in your area.
- Online: Websites like Martindale-Hubbell or Avvo help match potential clients with lawyers practicing in the local area and in the type of law needed.
Don’t be afraid to do research, request a free initial consultation, and ask lots of questions (both about the lawyer and your specific case) before you finally hire a lawyer. Beyond experience and competence, the right lawyer should instill confidence and make you feel comfortable.