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Estate Planning Attorney

Estate Planning Attorney


Do you have a plan for your family and your assets if something happens to you?

The purpose of estate planning is to make things as easy as possible for your family in the event you become incapacitated or if you were to pass away. Our office offers several comprehensive plans to fit your goals and your budget. We can help you to put a plan in place so that your family would know exactly what to do if something were to happen to you. Click the links below to find out more.

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Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for an estate planning meeting?

The first meeting in our office is intended to be purely informational and to provide you with your estate planning options. Our office utilizes a worksheet that we send to all potential clients to complete prior to our initial meeting. Each client is different and has their own set of factors that influence what they want in their estate plan. The worksheet provides us with all of the information that we need to get a better understanding of your unique estate planning goals and wishes. This allows us to provide you with the best options for a custom estate plan tailored for your specific situation.

What questions should I ask an estate planning attorney?

One of the most important questions to ask is what is the attorney’s level of experience when it comes to preparing wills and trusts? If the attorney is a general practitioner that merely dabbles in estate planning, then they may not know how to properly address your unique situation. You may end up with a “one size fits all plan” that may not be appropriate for your planning needs. It is best to plan with an attorney that regularly practices in this area of law.

Another important question is to ask the practitioner is whether a will-based plan or a trust-based plan is more appropriate. This is an especially important decision. This is because selecting the wrong option for your particular situation could result in your family having to go through the expensive, time-consuming, and very public process of probate while grieving their loss of you.

estate planning attorney
Estate Planning Attorney in Sterling Heights, MI

What should be included in estate planning?

The best estate plan is a comprehensive estate plan. An estate plan should include all necessary documents to address incapacity and death. Regarding incapacity, you need to include documents that address your wishes with regard to your healthcare in the event that you are unable to communicate with your healthcare provider. You also need to implement documents to allow someone to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do so yourself due to incapacity. 

At death, you want to make sure that you have all the necessary documents to address your wishes as to how you would want your estate to be handled. You would also select the person or persons that you would want to manage your estate. The type of documents selected for this purpose would depend on the type of assets that you own and whether you wanted your estate to avoid probate.

If you have children, you want to make sure that you have appropriate documents in place to identify who you would want (or do not want in some cases) to raise your children if you were unable to do so. If you do not have these types of documents in place, then the court will make this determination for you and the court may select someone that you would not have chosen to raise your children. 

What are the four important estate planning factors?

A comprehensive estate plan should include documents that plan for incapacity and death. With regard to incapacity, the plan should include at a minimum both a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney. The estate plan should include a will or trust (or both) to address how your assets should be distributed upon your death. You should discuss which option would be the best for your situation with your estate planning attorney.

How much does an estate planning lawyer charge?

The fee for an estate plan will depend on the complexity of your estate. There are many variables to consider such as whether you are married or if you are single. Another consideration is whether you have minor children and the types of assets that you own.

Putting an estate plan in place is similar to building a house. The price of a home is higher if you choose high end options. The price of the estate plan will be dependent upon the options you choose.  At our first meeting, we will present all available options to you. You choose the options that work best for your family and that fit into your budget. 

Consequently, we are unable to provide a fee for our services until after our initial meeting. That being said, all of our estate plans are billed on a flat fee basis that is agreed to prior to our firm beginning any work on your estate plan. We feel that this encourages communication with our estate planning clients without them worrying about being billed each time they contact us to ask a question.

What does an estate planner do?

The job of an estate planner is to listen to your goals and wishes with regard to the handling of your estate. It is also an estate planner’s job to provide you with the best options to reach those goals and wishes. An estate planner will then implement a plan utilizing the options that you select to address what would happen to you and your assets if you became incapacitated or died 

Is an estate attorney necessary?

It is possible to prepare your own estate plan. However, it is not recommended. If you chose to prepare your own estate plan, there is a substantial risk that your plan may not be carried out as you had intended.

There are a number of reasons that you may want to hire an estate planning attorney. The first reason is to avoid probate. Probate can be an expensive, long, and very public process. By hiring an attorney, you may keep more money in your estate, save time for the person charged with handling your affairs and keep everything private.

Another benefit to hiring an attorney is to avoid family conflict. Estate planning attorneys are familiar with common issues that arise during the estate planning process. They can be sure to address all of these issues in your documents thus decreasing the likelihood of your loved ones being subjected to probate while grieving your loss.

When preparing an estate plan, there are many statutory rules that must be followed. One example is that documents must be properly witnessed and notarized. Failure to follow this simple statutory rule could result in the invalidation of your documents. By hiring an attorney, you avoid the many potential pit falls that could invalidate your documents and force your family to have to go through probate to administer your estate.

By hiring an attorney, you can be confident that your documents will be drafted and prepared correctly. An attorney can make sure that the documents accurately reflect your wishes and meet statutory requirements. This helps your family to avoid probate and family conflict while dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Is it better to have a will or a trust?

This is a very common question. The answer will depend on your personal goals and wishes. The easiest way to determine which is better for you is to give a brief explanation of each document.

Many times, people are under the impression that by implementing a will, that their estate will stay out of probate. The exact opposite is true. The purpose of a will is to guide the probate court as to a deceased individual’s wishes with regard to their probatable assets. It is kind of like a play book for the court in that it describes who you want to handle your estate and how you want your estate distributed. The court will then consider your wishes expressed in your will when your estate is administered. With a will based estate plan, your estate will be subject to all required filings and timelines set by the probate code.

A trust is a document that helps you to avoid probate. It is an agreement on how your estate should be handled. In order to avoid probate, your non designated beneficiary assets must be properly titled in the name of the trust. This allows a person of your choosing to handle and/or sell those assets in the trust without court involvement. Although a trust will cost you some money out of pocket while you are living, it will likely help you to keep more money in your estate upon your death. Often times, the money kept in your estate by implementing a trust is far greater than the money spent on hiring an attorney to prepare your trust.

In order to understand whether it is better to have a will or trust, it is fundamental to understand the difference between the two documents. Now that you have a basic understanding of each document, the best way to determine which type of planning is best for you is to speak to an estate planning attorney. The attorney will then be able to tailor an appropriate plan that is consistent with your wishes while using the best planning instrument for your situation.

Can the executor of a will take everything?

One of the important things that a will does is that it explains to the court who you would like to handle your affairs upon your death. This person is often referred to as the executor of the will. Another name for the executor is personal representative which is the name often used by the probate court.

Upon your death, the personal representative (a.k.a. executor) will need to file your will with the court. The court will then review and approve the appointment of the person named in your will if appropriate. Upon approval, the person will receive Letters of Authority which allow the person to handle your affairs. 

A personal representative has a number of duties while acting in this capacity. One of these duties is to file an inventory early on in the case. The personal representative must also prepare an accounting annually for the estate and distribute it to all interested persons who may file an objection if something looks suspicious. The personal representative is also advised not to comingle the estate assets with their own assets and to open a separate account to maintain estate assets. 

This creates accountability for the personal representative. It also helps to prevent the named person from utilizing the estate assets for their own benefit. Thus, it is very unlikely that the executor will “take everything” unless they are also named as the beneficiary of the will to receive everything.

Note: The information on this page is not intended to be legal advice nor is it intended to form an attorney client relationship. An attorney client relationship is formed only when an engagement agreement has been signed by both attorney and prospective client and fees for services have been paid.

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