What is your estate?
Regardless of your financial situation, you likely have an estate. Your estate is all the real property and personal property owned by you before it is distributed through a trust or a will. Real property is your real estate, and personal property includes everything else, i.e. cars, bank accounts, family heirlooms, etc.
What is estate planning?
If something happens to you, your property will go somewhere. An effective estate plan does more than ensure that your real and personal property are distributed to your loved ones in accordance with your wishes. It can also help to minimize taxes, reduce burdens on survivors, designate funeral accommodations and avoid costly, time-consuming probate battles.
Do you need an estate plan?
Do you have a minor child or a dependant with special needs? Do you care about who receives your property? Do you own a business? Do you want to ensure that your wishes about life-prolonging medical care or funeral arrangements are honored?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need an estate plan.
Do you need an attorney to help with your estate plan?
You may have encountered at-home estate planning software or fill-in-the-blank forms which promise to save you time and money. Approach such offers skeptically. Tackling your estate plan alone can prove tricky. Laws vary from state to state and if your will is not properly executed, a judge might hold it to be invalid. An invalid will is worthless.
An experienced lawyer can help you skillfully navigate through the estate planning process. Together, you and your lawyer can define your objectives and create a specialized plan to meet them. Your lawyer is uniquely equipped to indentify tax saving and ensure that more of your property goes to your loved ones, not the state.