Estate planning can be a daunting and stressful task. Luckily, an estate planning law firm can help you to create your estate plan with as little stress as possible. Whether you need help with estate planning basics or want the estate planning law firm to guide you through every step, you’ll find the process a lot easier with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.
How an Estate Planning Law Firm Can Help
Estate planning is a complicated process that requires you to follow a number of steps to create a comprehensive and legally enforceable estate plan that will protect your heirs after your death. Generally speaking, an estate planning law firm can:
- Draft your estate plan.
- Advise you in administration of the Trust by helping your family settle your estate and distribute your assets according to your estate plan after death.
- Guide your family through the complicated and stressful process of navigating probate court if you haven’t created an estate plan prior to your death.
Transferring Assets to Heirs
One of the most important aspects of estate planning for most families is the ability to transfer your assets to your heirs after your death. Creating an estate plan involves gathering and organizing all important documents so that assets can be transferred as efficiently and in as cost-effective a manner as possible.
Following the proper steps when creating your estate plan will also ensure that your heirs pay as little estate tax on their inherited assets as possible. An estate planning law firm can help you execute a plan to accomplish this goal.
Lowering the Estate Tax Burden
An estate planning law firm will help you minimize the burden of the estate tax.
As of 2018, an estate is exempt from the federal estate tax if it is below $11.2 million. This number is increased each year to track with inflation. California does not have state level estate taxes but if you own property in multiple states, property owned in another state may be subject to state level estate taxes. Since less than one percent of estates are now subject to federal estate taxes, the estate plan will typically focus on planning to avoid court intervention and planning for challenging family dynamics.
An estate planning law firm is there to help you ensure that your estate will owe as little estate tax as possible, to minimize the risk of court intervention in transfer of assets, and to protect your young or less than responsible heirs from themselves.
Providing Peace of Mind
An estate plan created by an estate planning law firm gives you and your heirs the peace of mind that your estate plan has been created properly and will be legally enforceable. If your parents haven’t created an estate plan, speak to them about creating one. It may be an uncomfortable conversation but the results of failing to plan can be emotionally devastating, especially if a parent becomes incapacitated prior to death.
A well-planned estate will make it easier for your family to settle the estate after your death.
Avoiding Probate Court
One of the potential drawbacks of not having your estate plan created is the potential of facing probate court. Probate court is a process that your heirs must go through if you don’t have an estate plan or if your estate plan isn’t legally enforceable. If you die owning more than $50,000 in real property and $150,000 total in assets that are not beneficiary designated, your estate will go through probate.
Settling the Estate
There’s a specific process that must be followed when you’re settling an estate. The estate must pay any taxes that are owed, the title of any property or assets must be transferred to heirs, and any proper debts owned by the estate must be paid. All this must happen before the assets can be distributed to the heirs of the estate. Keep in mind the laws for proper debts are not intuitive. You would be surprised by some of the debts that can go unpaid so make sure you consult with a probate attorney before paying any creditors.
Following this process is much easier with an estate planning law firm helping you through each step.
Helping You Choose An Executor
An estate planning law firm can also help you choose an executor. The executor of your estate will act upon the wishes you have laid out in your estate plan after your death.
The executor of your estate should be someone that you trust and who you know will follow your wishes. An estate planning law firm will have recommendations and questions for you to consider before choosing whom to nominate as the executor of your estate. Choosing the right executor, whether it ends up being one of your children or a third party can be the difference between ending up in litigation or not.
Avoiding Conservatorship Upon Incapacity
Most of us are living for so long we are likely to face an event of incapacity. Common examples include the case of a severe accident or Alzheimer’s diagnosis. If you don’t have an estate plan in place, it will be impossible for someone to make financial decisions for you or your estate without a conservatorship. Your wishes should be laid out in an estate plan so that your affairs can be managed in accordance with your wishes and without court intervention.
A conservatorship is court supervised for the duration of your incapacity. This is a costly and lengthy process and more importantly, the individual the court appoints to manage your affairs may not be the person you would have chosen or even trust.
Declaring Your Wishes for Health Care During Decline
While most people think of an estate plan as something that’s enacted after death, it’s also possible to record your wishes and care instructions as you near the end of your life in your estate plan. Ideally you have done it long before you need it, but as long as you have capacity, you can execute an estate plan.
An estate planning law firm can help you lay those out should you reach a point where you’re unable to care for yourself and/or communicate. An estate plan is much more comprehensive than just a will, as it will help you plan for many different contingencies.
If you’re in need of a legally enforceable estate plan or want to better understand estate planning basics, you should seek the help of an estate planning law firm. Contact the Kam Law Firm to speak to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney who can help you with any of your estate planning needs.