Selecting the right estate planning attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make to help protect your assets and wealth. An experienced estate planning lawyer at Hammond Law Group can guide you in putting together a comprehensive estate plan that accounts for your specific circumstances and goals.
What Does an Estate Planning Lawyer Do?
An estate planning lawyer focuses on helping you plan for the transfer of your assets and wealth both during your lifetime and after your death. This can involve creating customized documents and strategies such as:
- Wills – A will specifies how you want your property distributed after you pass away. It also allows you to name an executor to carry out your wishes and a guardian for any minor children.
- Trusts – Trusts allow you to place assets under the control of a trustee for the benefit of your chosen beneficiaries. They can be used for estate tax planning and to protect assets from creditors.
- Powers of Attorney – These legal documents authorize someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Advance Health Directives – Also called living wills, these outline your wishes related to end-of-life medical care if you are unable to communicate.
- Beneficiary Designations – These specify who inherits certain assets like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts upon your death.
- Asset Protection Strategies – Your lawyer can help shield your wealth from lawsuits and creditors through trusts and other tools.
- Tax Planning – An estate planning attorney can look for ways to minimize taxes on your estate and on inherited assets.
How Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help Protect Your Assets?
While a thoughtful estate plan accounts for transferring your wealth to your chosen beneficiaries, asset protection is often part of the equation as well.
An estate planning lawyer has access to tools and strategies that can help shield your assets from potential creditors, lawsuits, divorces, and other threats that could put your wealth at risk:
Asset Protection Trusts
Also called spendthrift trusts, these are designed to hold assets on behalf of your beneficiaries while limiting access by their creditors. The assets belong to the trust, with a trustee managing distributions to beneficiaries.
Personal Property Trusts
These specialized trusts allow you to transfer tangible personal property into a trust now, specifying how the assets should be distributed upon your death. This can help avoid disputes over personal possessions.
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILITs)
ILITs own life insurance policies, keeping the value of the proceeds out of your taxable estate. This can help minimize estate taxes when you die.
Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs)
With an FLP, you transfer assets like real estate or a business into a partnership, retaining full control as the general partner. Over time, you can gift partnership interests to beneficiaries, reducing estate taxes.
Retirement Account Trusts
These customized trusts help you to leave retirement accounts like 401(k)s to trust beneficiaries instead of individuals listed as account beneficiaries. This can provide greater asset protection for heirs.
For those marrying or remarrying, a prenuptial agreement is essential for protecting personal assets in case of a future divorce. An estate planning lawyer can craft an agreement addressing finances, property, and spousal support.
In addition to these tools, your estate planning attorney may also look at liability insurance to protect your wealth, shielding assets with entities like limited liability companies (LLCs), and using exempt assets like annuities and retirement plans to provide for heirs while protecting wealth.
Why Choose an Estate Planning Lawyer vs. Doing it Yourself?
With online templates and self-help estate planning options available, you may wonder if hiring an estate planning lawyer is necessary. While a DIY plan may seem like an affordable option, there are distinct benefits to customized guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney that can actually save your beneficiaries significant time, legal fees, and hassle in the long run.
A qualified estate planning attorney will also ask you targeted questions and consider unique aspects of your situation that may significantly impact the best strategies and documents to employ to protect your assets. No online template can provide the custom guidance required for more complex estate planning scenarios like:
- Blended families with stepchildren and children from prior relationships
- Investments and property in multiple states are subject to different state laws
- Family members with special needs
- Adult children from a prior marriage that you want to provide for differently than joint children
- Concerns about a beneficiary’s potential divorce or lawsuits impacting inherited assets
- Running a private business
- Acting as a trustee or executor for someone else
- Planning for the care of minor children or pets if you were to pass away unexpectedly
Protecting Your Assets Starts with a Conversation
If protecting your wealth for your heirs is important, a consultation with an estate planning lawyer is a wise first step. An initial meeting provides the opportunity to discuss your goals, concerns, and legal needs at no cost or further obligation. The right estate planning attorneys will listen first before proposing solutions to protect your assets and provide for your loved ones.
With guidance from Hammond Law Group in Colorado Springs, you can put the legal documents and strategies in place to distribute your assets clearly, minimize taxes, avoid needless court intervention, and protect your wealth from unnecessary risk. A comprehensive estate plan tailored to your unique needs provides lasting benefit and peace of mind for both you and your family.