We have all heard stories about do-it-yourself advocates who made things worse by biting off more than they could chew. They made rookie mistakes, and they turned relatively simple jobs into more complicated and costly situations that were ultimately handled by qualified people.
This is a lesson that you should apply when you are considering the subject of estate planning. It can seem as though the creation of documents is a relatively simple endeavor. After all, there are websites on the Internet that sell worksheets and downloads that you can use to fill in the blanks on generic legal documents.
Do you really need an estate planning lawyer to plan your estate? In fairness, there is no legal requirement that mandates the involvement of a licensed, practicing attorney. At the same time, there is no legal obstacle in the way if you want to give yourself a root canal, but that would probably not be a very good idea.
Choosing the Right Documents
There are those who think that they can just create a will using tools that they purchase online. Though this is technically possible, researchers at Consumer Reports advised against the practice after they worked with legal professors to examine do-it-yourself last wills.
This is only part of the problem. A last will is not the only document that could be used to arrange for asset transfers. In fact, in many if not most cases, it is not the best choice.
One thing that many people don’t understand about a will is the fact that it would be admitted to probate. The inheritors would not receive their inheritances while the estate was being probated by the court. This will take somewhere in the vicinity of a year, and this is if everything goes smoothly. If there are complications, the probate process can take considerably longer.
There is also the matter of lump sum inheritances. As an elder, you may have insight into the money management capabilities of people that you love. If someone was to spend his or her inheritance too quickly, serious problems could arise later on when there is no one around to help. You would leave lump sum inheritances if you use a will, and the outcome could ultimately be problematic.
The potential difficulties do not stop there. Many people with disabilities rely on Medicaid as a source of health insurance. Supplemental Security Income is a source of financial support for a significant percentage of people with special needs.
These programs are only available to people who have very limited financial resources. As a result, if you were to leave an inheritance to someone who was relying on these programs in your will, it could trigger a loss of benefit eligibility.
Estate taxes can also enter the picture. There is a federal estate tax that everyone in America must contend with, and here in Connecticut, we have a state-level estate tax as well. If you maintain direct personal possession of your property up until the time of your death, and you use a will to direct its distribution, all of the property would be part of your estate.
Taxes could then take a huge chunk of the legacy that you are leaving to your loved ones.
Consult With an Estate Planning Attorney
As you can see, there are many different circumstances that can arise that would not be properly addressed through the utilization of a last will. We have looked at a number of them here, but there are others.
Plus, there are related matters that are quite relevant, and the typical layperson may not be aware of them. For example, most seniors will need long-term care, and Medicare does not pay for living assistance. Nursing home expenses could potentially consume everything that you intended to pass along to your loved ones if you do not take legal steps to preserve your assets.
If you consult with an estate planning attorney, you can explain your family dynamic and your financial situation, you can ask questions, and you can become apprised of all of your options. In the end, you can work with your attorney to construct a tailor-made plan that is specifically designed to address your unique situation.
Our firm can help if you would like to sit down and discuss your objectives with a licensed estate planning attorney. We offer free consultations to people in and around Hartford, and you can call us at 860-548-1000 or send us a message through our contact page to set up an appointment.
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