Estate planning sounds like a fancy and complicated legal term. But it's really something so basic that everyone should get their estate planned. It's not only for the wealthy.
But not everyone necessarily needs to hire an attorney to plan their estate, as many forms can be found online to draft wills. And not everyone has a sophisticated enough estate that it needs to be planned by an attorney.
Still, nearly everyone can benefit from having a lawyer look over their will and overall estate plan. So let's get into Estate Planning 101 and the basics of planning an estate. Here are three signs you probably need an estate planning lawyer:
- Your net worth is more than $5 million. In many cases, this will mean that your estate could be subject to estate tax. What happens in that case is that any amount over the current estate tax exemption amount gets hit with the estate tax. So, if you've planned to give your heirs a huge chunk of your fortune, guess again. You may be giving Uncle Sam that huge chunk, unless you plan ahead.
- You own real property. It can be tricky to divvy up real property upon someone's death. Title can be held in many ways, and often there are legal technicalities to owning property -- technicalities you may be unaware of. Do you even have the right to give away your portion of a property held with another? Not in all cases. In some cases, that property will pass directly to the other joint owner. An experienced estate planning lawyer will know how to look at the title documents and figure out how to properly deal with your property.
- You have special circumstances. For some people, they might have a child with special needs whose federal benefits stand to be lost if they inherit. Or in other cases, there may be foreign property or foreign heirs. These are just a few common issues that require specialized estate planning.
To learn more about estate planning, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Estate Planning which you can download, print out, and share with family and friends. Also take a look at the links below for more information on estate planning and the documents you'll need for a good estate plan.
- Can You Include iTunes, eBooks in Your Will? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- What Does the Executor of a Will Do? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- The Basics: What are the Important Documents in an Estate Plan? (FindLaw's New York Estate Planning News)
- Sample Basic Will (Annotated) (FindLaw)