An estate planning lawyer is an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of estate planning and is capable of creating comprehensive estate plans tailored to individual needs. Estate planning attorneys review, analyze and make recommendations regarding personal and administrative aspects of a client’s assets. They need to have a good understanding of the process of probate, as well as a good understanding of the potential future effects of various taxes, including estate, gift, and income taxes.
While not everyone will require the kind of complex plan that would be suitable for a wealthy person, or for a person with many different types of assets, even those of modest means often have specific concerns that an estate planning attorney can address. Estate planning attorneys are familiar with the wide variety of planning instruments available to help people on all economic levels provide for their own future health care and financial needs, as well as for the future needs of their family members or other beneficiaries.
What is the Difference between an Estate Planning Attorney and a Family Law Attorney?
While both estate planning attorneys and family law attorneys are concerned with issues that involve the well-being of families, family law attorneys focus primarily on matters related to divorce and parenting, while estate planning attorneys focus primarily on protecting assets, preparing for future health care needs, and creating plans for asset distribution. The two practice areas are interrelated and sometimes overlap. For example, a prenuptial agreement may be coordinated with an estate plan. People going through a divorce need to know how property distribution in the divorce will affect their estate plan. They may need to revise estate planning documents to ensure that a former spouse does not continue as an unintended beneficiary, or does not retain the power to make medical decisions. There are many documents beyond wills or trusts that may be affected.
Most family law attorneys have some familiarity with estate planning, and most estate planning attorneys have some familiarity with family law. Both family law attorneys and estate planning attorneys sometimes handle matters related to things like Medicaid planning, children’s trusts, or guardianships. Skill sets vary widely however. A few practitioners handle both areas of law equally, but most concentrate the bulk of their practice in either one area or the other.
Characteristics of Good Estate Planning Attorneys
If you are looking for an estate planning attorney, you probably already know that you will need someone who is well-versed in the tools available for estate planning and who has a solid grasp of which tools are best-suited for which particular circumstances. If you are going through a divorce, make sure that your estate planning attorney knows this and understands what the ramifications may be. Don’t overlook the importance of personal qualities as well. A good estate planning attorney will be interested in your wishes, will demonstrate a high degree of sensitivity regarding any family or health concerns you may have, and will be proactive and creative in helping you turn your wishes into reality.
Meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney
You will be able to work more efficiently with an estate planning attorney if you take some time to plan ahead for your first meeting. Collecting documents and making a list of assets and liabilities is critical. One reason that it makes sense to work on estate planning concurrently with divorce planning is that both processes require many of the same documents, allowing you go through the tedious process of collecting documents only once rather than twice. In addition to collecting your documents, make sure that you think about exactly what you are hoping to accomplish. Are you concerned with protecting children or other potential beneficiaries? Do you anticipate dissension in the family over the decisions you are planning to make? Are there potential future events that require contingency planning or periodic review of your plan?
Your attorney will not only help you prepare a current plan, but will also help you update your plan on a regular basis. A major mistake many people make is to create a plan and then give it no more thought while circumstances in their life continue to change. Make sure to review your plan with your attorney every couple of years, or immediately after any significant life event, such as a birth, a death, a divorce, or a marriage.
Contact us to find out more about how the attorneys at Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group can help you with your estate planning needs, including wills and testaments, trusts, powers of attorney, asset protection devices and more.