Situations Requiring More Than a Basic Will
While a basic online will may be a viable option for some, an experienced attorney is helpful in the following circumstances.
If it is important to you to avoid probate for your family then you will want to set up a trust, as this is the way in which probate can be avoided if you own real property.
If you have remarried and have children from a previous relationship, you must create a will or trust that ensures that your money and property are distributed in a way that considers both your new spouse and children from the prior relationship. You may have to make some complex decisions, which may be difficult to evaluate without legal advice.
Special Needs Planning
If you are a family with a dependent child or an adult with special needs, you may want to establish a special needs trust to provide for the ongoing care and financial support of your loved one while still maintaining their eligibility for government assistance programs. This requires a custom strategy to consider your options and ensure that your trust is legally compliant in your state to accomplish your goals.
Estate Tax Planning
If you are an individual with a large estate potentially subject to estate taxes, you will want to understand the latest tax-saving strategies, such as gifting, trusts, or other legal tools to minimize estate tax liabilities and preserve a greater legacy for heirs.
If you are a business owner looking to pass your business on to the next generation or sell it upon retirement, you will need a comprehensive plan that effectively addresses the shift in ownership, management, and business property for a smooth and successful transition.
Multistate or International Property and Heirs
If you have real property in different states, heirs may be subject to estate administration processes across multiple jurisdictions, which will require consideration of different state laws and potential tax implications. Having property and heirs in other countries creates even more complexity.
If you have concerns about potential creditors coming after your hard-earned money while you are alive or creditors or ex-spouses taking the inheritance of your beneficiaries (spouse, children, loved ones, etc.) after your death, you will need an estate plan that has been specifically crafted to protect your life savings from potential creditor claims and legal challenges. This plan will need to contain specialized provisions and must be created in a manner that complies with the law to ensure that it is legally valid and not a fraudulent transfer.
If you want to include charitable giving as part of your estate plan, it may require establishing charitable trusts, foundations, or other organizations to support specific philanthropic causes while maximizing tax benefits. Each organization will have rules regarding gifts that you must follow to avoid negative consequences.
An estate planning attorney can address the unique needs and goals of you and your family. They will educate you about your situation and allow you to make informed decisions.