In today’s digital age, legal forms can be found in the click of a few buttons and downloaded for a relatively small fee. As a result, people often think that there is no real need to retain the services of an attorney for many legal matters. While this may be true in some cases, when it comes to estate planning, nothing could be farther from the truth. Here’s why:
Estate planning is complicated. Often numerous goals must be considered at the same time when creating an estate plan.
State laws vary. Wills, trusts and estates are governed by state law, meaning that the law in one state may not be the same as in another. Generic forms may not account for the changes in state laws. Also, decisions affecting family members are best discussed with a qualified estate planning attorney who is skilled in tax law, trust law, probate law, as well as dealing with family members.
Laws change. Laws of all kinds are subject to change. Laws relating to wills, trusts and estates change often, making generic forms outdated in many cases.
Estate planning requires an understanding of not just the law, but state and federal taxes as well.
An error in your Last Will and Testament could cause your estate to be distributed under state intestate succession laws which could bear no resemblance to your actual wishes.
Trusts are not “one size fits all”. Although you may be able to get a general idea of how a trust works without the help of an estate planning attorney, deciding which one is right for your needs is not that easy.
There is no second chance in estate planning. By the very nature of the purpose of an estate plan, by the time it is discovered that a mistake was made you may no longer be here to correct the mistake.
Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.