What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?

An estate planning lawyer helps you prepare for the future

By Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on October 5, 2022

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An estate planning attorney helps individuals create a plan for what happens to their estate when they die or become incapable of caring for themselves. 

“Most of the time, I’m meeting with people to help them with the orderly transition of their assets from themselves to their children or their beneficiaries at the time of their death,” says Ohio estate planning and probate attorney Jay E. Michael. 

There are several ways to do this. “[It] could be through a last will and testament. It could be through a trust. Or it could be through non-probate transfers, such as payable upon death accounts or transfer upon death accounts,” he says.  

An estate plan not only deals with personal assets like bank accounts and real estate. It also prepares for what happens if a person gets sick or who will raise a person’s children if they die. 

No single type of estate plan is best for everyone. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with an attorney about your situation.  

An experienced estate plan attorney will be able to guide you through the pros and cons of different options and come up with the best estate plan for yourself and your loved ones.   

This article will explain the role of an estate planning attorney and help point you to legal help for your own future plans

How To Choose an Estate Planning Attorney 

In picking an estate planning attorney, there are basic requirements you should look for: 

  • They passed your state’s bar exam and are licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction 
  • They specialize in estate planning and probate law 

Beyond this, you’ll want to consider other factors such as: 

  • What is their experience practicing law? 
  • Do they have a good reputation in the legal community? 
  • What legal services do they offer? 
  • Is their law office conveniently located for you? 
  • Is the lawyer someone you trust? 

Often, the best way to assess if a lawyer will meet your needs is to have an initial consultation with them. Consultations are often free and allow you to ask questions and get a feel for the lawyer. 

To find highly qualified estate planning lawyers in your area, use the Super Lawyers directory.  

When To Hire an Estate Planning Attorney 

Preparing for what will happen when we die can feel uncomfortable or even morbid. 

However, without an estate plan in place, your wishes may not be followed. For example, family members may not be cared for in the way you would like, or your assets could go to individuals you don’t want to benefit. 

It’s best to speak with an estate planning lawyer as soon as you can. Estate planning is not just for older individuals. Life is unpredictable, and you want to have a plan established before anything bad happens.  

For example, it’s an excellent idea for young parents to have an estate plan. If anything happens to the parents, an estate plan will specify who raises the child and provide for the child’s welfare. 

While estate planning can be complicated, meeting with a lawyer is not. A lawyer can guide you through the process and ensure everything is taken care of. 

What Is the Main Benefit of Estate Planning?  

An estate planning lawyer is a legal professional who helps you create a solid estate plan in the event of your incapacity or death. 

The law governing estate planning is complicated. An estate planning lawyer will be familiar with relevant federal and state laws, including 

  • Estate laws 
  • Tax laws  
  • Inheritance laws 

So, a major benefit of having an expert involved means you don’t have to worry about misunderstanding the law or getting it wrong.  

But the most significant benefit of good estate planning is ultimately the peace of mind that comes from knowing your affairs are in order. An estate plan: 

  • Ensures your assets are dispersed the way you want 
  • Ensures your children and other family members are provided for in the way you want 
  • Reduces the stress on your loved ones when you die or become ill 
  • Saves your family money and time in figuring out how to distribute your estate 
  • Can reduce friction and infighting among family members 
  • Gives your loved ones clarity about what your wishes were 

What Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help With? 

A lawyer can handle all aspects of the estate planning and probate process, including: 

  • Prepare estate planning documents. The legal documents in an estate plan include:  
    • A last will and testament that distributes the person’s assets upon their death 
    • A living trust that protects the person’s assets while they’re alive 
    • Review of the individual’s assets 
  • Designating beneficiaries. Another key document in an estate plan is the designation of assets to one’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, charities, etc. This document details who you want to receive your assets. 
  • Health care directives. A living will is a legal document that specifies the kind of medical care you will receive if you get sick and cannot make decisions. A durable power of attorney is a document that appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. 
  • Retirement planning. An estate planning lawyer can assist with retirement preparation and life insurance policies. 
  • Probate court process. An estate planning lawyer will be well-versed in your state’s probate code. They can help you try to avoid probate altogether or assist your estate’s executor through the probate process when the time comes. They can also handle probate litigation if disputes arise over the estate. 

How Much Does an Estate Planning Attorney Cost? 

Many estate planning lawyers charge a flat fee for preparing estate plan documents. 

Costs will vary depending on the complexity of your estate and the full range of legal services you seek. Typically, fees range from several hundred to a few thousand dollars.  

When you meet with a lawyer, ask about their fees and billing options. 

Even though estate planning costs money, it pays off in peace of mind and the expenses saved by avoiding disputes down the road. 

Questions for an Estate Planning Attorney 

As mentioned above, many estate plan lawyers provide free consultations for potential clients. These meetings let you get legal advice and decide if the attorney meets your needs. 

To get the most out of a consultation, ask informed questions such as: 

  • What are your attorney’s fees and billing options? 
  • What are your legal services? 
  • What estate plan documents do I need? 
  • What would be the best plan for my estate? 
  • Can I avoid the probate process? 

Once you have met with a lawyer and gotten your questions answered, you can begin an attorney-client relationship. 

Look for an estate planning attorney in the Super Lawyers directory for help with the estate planning process.

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