Not working with an experienced estate planning attorney is a risky business.
Some people are risk-takers.
They enjoy the thrill of adrenaline pumping through their veins as they push the limits.
Extreme examples include those who free-climb mountains or skydive.
Others are more cautious and calculated.
They prefer understanding and controlling as many variables as possible to support their security.
Many people fall into the risk-taker category unbeknownst to them regarding estate planning.
The odds of dying are 100 percent for all people.
Even so, many fail to prioritize estate planning.
Why would estate planning be important?
Estate planning involves intentionally preparing for the fate of wealth accumulated over a lifetime and the legacy one wishes to leave behind.
Unfortunately, people often misunderstand how it affects legal protections and personal finances.
In my career over the past 30+ years, I have heard numerous tales of the negative impact of insufficient or nonexistent estate planning.
These tragic tales underscore the need for an experienced estate planning attorney to get effective documents in place.
While many believe estate planning is simply drafting a last will and testament, this is far from accurate.
Although preparing for the transfer of assets after death is a key component, a comprehensive and effective estate plan should include preparations for who will manage legal and financial affairs or make medical decisions in the event of incapacity.
Consequently, estate planning is helpful for the average adult and not only for wealthy or elderly individuals.
Simply waiting until you reach a ripe old age can backfire and leave you and your loved ones vulnerable.
While neglecting estate planning is problematic, tackling estate planning on your own can be equally detrimental.
In fact, it may be even worse because it can give you and your loved ones a false sense of security.
While some do-it-yourself projects, like refinishing the table you purchased at a garage sale, have low stakes, estate planning can leave your loved ones vulnerable after your incapacity or death.
What are some risks of DIY estate planning?
Estate law accounts for both federal and state legislation.
Because not all states have the same statutes, you can easily overlook the specific laws applicable to your residence.
Additionally, complex family dynamics and future asset changes may be overlooked.
We all have our “blind spots,” and no one person lives the same life.
While an online template may appear suitable, you could unintentionally trigger disinheritance, estate battles, and a significant tax burden for your loved ones.
Are estate planning attorneys really worth the money?
Because experienced estate planning attorneys are dedicated to this legal niche, they bring invaluable knowledge and wisdom to estate planning conversations.
Their role is more than simply drafting legal documents.
Estate planning attorneys work with their clients to tailor the plans to the specific needs of these individuals and families while also addressing tax implications and choosing the appropriate legal framework.
As a result, plans can be comprehensive and flexible while in alignment with current state and federal laws.
Clients can find true peace of mind knowing their plans have been assembled with wisdom and care.
Although working with an attorney is essential to estate planning, not all estate planning attorneys are created equal.
What should you look for in an estate planning attorney?
First, you should search for someone with experience and expertise.
Although it may seem that any attorney should understand estate law, one focused on estate planning will be better equipped to guide you and your loved ones through your plan creation than someone who does not.
Review the track record and scope of practice when evaluating prospective lawyers.
Second, the person you choose should have excellent communication skills.
Estate and tax law are complex matters.
Because these affect your estate planning choices, you will want to work with someone who can explain these concepts and help you understand how different options will work for or against your estate planning goals.
Third, research the reputation and reviews of any attorney.
Both online reviews and personal referrals from family members, friends, financial advisors, or CPAs will be beneficial.
After all, you cannot hide on the internet.
And, as Ronald Reagan put it: “Trust, but verify!”
What should you expect once you have found an experienced estate planning attorney?
Working with an estate planning attorney generally involves an initial consultation, document preparation, and regular updates.
You will discuss family dynamics, financials, and goals during the initial consultation.
From what is shared, the attorney will make recommendations for the structure of the estate plan.
Once you have approved the plan, the attorney will draft any wills, trusts, powers of attorney, or other documents and schedule a time for you to sign the forms.
Because laws and personal situations change, your estate plan should also evolve.
You should regularly review and update your plan with your estate planning attorney to ensure it continues to provide the protections you need.
Although estate planning does require an initial investment, a comprehensive estate plan can provide future financial savings with present peace of mind.
With the proper structuring, you can reduce probate costs, minimize taxes, and avoid legal battles.
A proper plan can help you rest in knowing you have provided for loved ones and your wishes will be honored.
You are not alone if you still have many questions about estate planning.
Many of my clients have similar concerns and inquiries about estate planning.
Although I address several of these questions on my website, let us look at a few together.
Why can I not simply use an online template for my will?
Although you technically could use an online last will, these typically are the most generic of forms.
As a result, they may not adequately address personal needs nor comply with all state laws.
An experienced estate planning attorney can address these nuances.
At what age should I start thinking about estate planning?
Every legal adult should have certain estate planning documents to address incapacity planning.
For this reason, I recommend that those who are 18 in the states of Kansas or Missouri have such documents drafted and signed.
When you have significant assets or essential responsibilities like children, a business, or a home, estate planning is essential to protecting everyone you love and everything you have.
How often should I update my estate plan?
A good rule of thumb is to review your estate plan every three to five years.
If significant life changes occur during this time, like a substantial financial change, marriage, birth of a child, or divorce, you should update your plan earlier.
What happens if I do not have an estate plan?
Dying without an estate plan is known as dying intestate.
If you die intestate, state law will govern how assets are distributed.
Often, the heirs the government selects would not be your choice.
Additionally, having no last will can lead to a more significant tax burden, family arguments, and legal complications.
Is estate planning only about distributing my assets?
As any good estate planning attorney will tell you, estate planning also includes incapacity planning, selecting guardians for minor children, and minimizing the expenses and taxes associated with asset transfers.
In summary, estate planning is essential for everyone; DIY planning comes with risks, professional guidance is invaluable, care should be taken to choose the right attorney, and estate planning is an ongoing process.
If you are a Kansas or Missouri resident looking for an Overland Park estate planning attorney, check out our online client ratings and reviews for yourself.
Feel free to share them with your family and friends, too.
This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., and the reader.