An estate-planning lawyer is a specialized form of an attorney who knows how to advise clients to plan for the possibility of eventual death and disability of the person being served. They have many years of experience, ongoing professional development, and tutoring. In short, they have seen it all and done it all. Unfortunately, not every lawyer has this panache for living “at the moment.” An estate planning lawyer must sometimes be a bit older, wiser, and more experienced than you are.
Estate planning lawyers assist clients in creating a will. They will serve as their client’s Will. It authorizes the specific agents of their choice (spouses, children, parents, or siblings) to carry out the wishes contained therein. These agents may include their close friends or relatives; business associates; or relatives that do not live with them on a daily basis. The will should also specify that if the agent has to change hands, they get a new lawyer and a new address.
Once a will has been created, an estate planning lawyer should help his or her client to draft a Living Will. This document explains in plain English what kind of medical treatments the patient would prefer and which ones his or her family members are prohibited from undergoing. The Living Will also describes what happens to the property and assets of the patient and the process by which those things will pass down to his or her heirs. In cases where someone is suffering from serious illness or if death is impending, the Will should include specific instructions for different organs to be given life-saving treatment. A lawyer can intercede on the patient’s behalf before the law so that his or her Last Will and Testament is prepared and signed at the end of life.
Attorneys who specialize in family law often go on to practice employment law, corporate law, probate and trusts, landlord and tenant law, and criminal law. Many choose to focus on one of several areas of the field to promote the interests of their clients. There are several types of lawyers, including criminal defense attorneys, estate planners, litigation lawyers, probate lawyers, corporate officers, and real estate lawyers. Most work in private practices but there are some who work for government agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Office of the Comptroller General, the Internal Revenue Service, and other federal and state agencies.
A good estate planning lawyer will help his or her client to determine how to divide the decedent’s estate. This will include determining who gets what assets (property and financial holdings) and how those assets should pass down to the heirs. The lawyer may choose to hire an attorney who specializes in personal law, such as wills, estates, and probate. Some choose to retain a probate lawyer to represent them in the probate process.
The most common types of cases handled by estate-planning attorneys include cases involving couples who own property that will pass between them in the probate process. They also represent people who have assets that are not liquidated but do not wish to pass them down to their children. An estate-planning attorney can also help the client deal with estate taxes. He or she can advise his or her client on how to avoid the penalties that are assessed if the proper estate planning methods are not utilized. If the client owns stock that is worth a small amount of cash, estate-planning attorneys can help the client to liquidate the stock or place it in an IRA. The fees that will be charged for this type of plan vary from state to state.
Another type of case handled by an estate planning lawyer is that of an incapacitated person. When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness or other condition that impedes him or her from making sound decisions, the person’s estate may be subject to probate proceedings. A skilled estate planning attorney can help his or her client to consult with doctors and hospitals, obtain necessary medications, and create a durable power of attorney. Once the client has decided what steps to take, the attorney will work with the person’s physician to develop a health care plan. This plan will serve as protection for the person’s future unless he or she passes away due to a serious condition.
Estate-planning attorneys can be instrumental in a number of situations. They not only handle probate but can also advise their clients about the best way to document their wishes and express their desires for their legacy. Proper documentation of a person’s wishes, along with the relevant documents, can make the process much easier for the heirs. In some cases, the attorney may even be asked to act as a negotiator when one or more relatives are contesting the estate. In addition, he or she can assist with the various aspects of planning a wedding, a home, and real estate, and possibly prepare the will.