If you have young children, or if you are nearing retirement, the future may be on your mind, as it should be! The truth is that no one is guaranteed tomorrow, and no one knows what the future may hold. Planning ahead while you still have the time and mental capacity to do so is of the utmost importance to those you love most and those who depend on you! Everyone, regardless of their age or financial status, needs to have an estate plan in place that will make their wishes known and preserve their assets for their family. Most people aren’t familiar with estate planning and have many questions about the process, one of the most common being whether or not they need an estate planning attorney to help them.
The short answer is yes – it is highly recommended that you work with an estate planning attorney to create the most effective estate plan possible. However, in order to understand why, you need to know what estate planning includes and what an estate planning attorney can do to help you!
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is essentially getting your affairs in order legally. It is much more than simply making a will, although making a will is an important part of the process; it involves protecting your assets in trusts (so that they won’t be depleted by creditors, probate, and estate taxes), designating who your beneficiaries are and how much they will receive when you pass away, explicitly laying out your wishes for how you will be cared for medically if you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself (and who will make decisions for you, if necessary), who will have guardianship of your minor children (if applicable), and other preparations. `
Can You Do Estate Planning On Your Own?
Technically, you may be able to do estate planning on your own by downloading templates and doing research online, but that isn’t the wisest course of action. The main reason people try to “DIY” estate planning is to avoid the costs associated with hiring a lawyer. While that’s understandable, there are many cost-effective law firms out there that can work within your budget, and the costs of not hiring a lawyer to guide you through the estate planning process could easily prove to be higher when all is said and done.
Here are some of the main reasons why you need an estate planning attorney’s help…
- Templates are generic, and not state-specific or specific to your unique situation.
Many DIY estate planning options online aren’t fully compliant with state laws, and because you’re not a lawyer, you have no way of knowing if your estate plan meets Texas’s legal requirements. Also, these templates don’t take into account your family’s unique dynamics or your financial situation. If something happens to you and it turns out that your estate plan isn’t legally compliant with current state laws, or doesn’t take your family’s circumstances into account, your plan may be deemed invalid or inapplicable and will be useless to your family when they need it most.
- The internet isn’t always right.
While the internet has a lot of good information regarding estate planning, not all of it is accurate, and much of it is misleading. Anyone can post online and pretend to be an estate planning expert, but if they are not a lawyer, there’s no accountability with a higher organization. You could research estate planning for weeks and put together something you think will be enough, but lawyers go to school for years to be able to do estate planning correctly, and there is a reason why. Estate planning is complex, time-consuming, and requires extensive legal knowledge – not just a quick Google search.
- You might not get everything you need without an estate planning attorney.
An estate plan is more than just a will; it’s even more than just a will and a trust. You need many legal tools that can address clearly what will happen to your children, to your assets, and to your healthcare if anything happens to you. Downloadable template packages may have gaping holes that can leave your hard-earned wealth and your loved ones vulnerable. There are many different kinds of estate planning tools available to you, also, and it can be hard to understand which ones you should have without an estate planning attorney.
- Mistakes can result in litigation and probate.
If your estate plan isn’t entirely effective, your estate may have to go through probate when you pass away. Probate is a costly, confusing, burdensome legal process that can cause stress for your family that will have to handle it while they’re mourning. Your family may also end up fighting over what should happen in the event of your death or incapacitation, and the estate may have to go through litigation; that could deplete the inheritance you’ve worked to leave behind, and is not the legacy anyone intends.
- Your family may have to hire a lawyer to interpret or fix your plan.
Even if you try to avoid hiring a lawyer, your family may end up hiring one anyway if something happens to you and they need to understand what the documents you came up with can do. When you work with an estate planning attorney, your family will be kept in the loop from the beginning; when something happens to you, your lawyer will know who to notify and your family will know who to contact.
Benefits Our Texas Estate Planning Attorney Offers
Attorney Michelle E. Murphy has spent over 20 years helping Texas families create comprehensive estate plans that are personalized to their needs. Her legal knowledge and experience allows her to draft wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care proxies, advance directives, and other tools you may need. If you have a blended family, a family member with special needs, investment properties, a family business, or anything that requires complex planning, she can help you think through the best way to secure what matters most to you! She can ensure that your estate plan will bypass probate and minimize taxes. Attorney Michelle E. Murphy will take the time to get to know you and your family, answer all of your questions, and help you understand all of your legal options. Working with her can give you and your loved ones peace of mind! Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what her firm can do for you.