Do I Need to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney?

Posted On July 6, 2023

Estate planning is a critical process that involves making important decisions about the management and distribution of your assets after your passing. While some individuals may attempt to handle estate planning on their own, navigating the complexities of legal documents, tax implications, and ensuring the fulfillment of your wishes can be overwhelming. This begs the question: Do you need to hire an estate planning attorney? In this article, we will explore the key considerations involved in estate planning and shed light on the valuable role a New York estate planning attorney can play in helping you navigate this intricate process.

A New York estate planning attorney can guide you throughout the estate planning process. At New York Legacy Lawyers, our team of New York estate planning attorneys may be able to help you explore various estate planning strategies, such as establishing trusts to minimize taxes and protect your assets, or setting up powers of attorney and healthcare directives to ensure your wishes are respected in the event of incapacity. With the help of our team, you can have peace of mind, knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes. Call us today at (718)713-8080 to schedule a consultation.

What an Estate Planning Attorney Does

An estate planning attorney doesn’t only set up your last will and testament, they also set up power of attorney, name your beneficiaries for your assets, and ensure that your wishes are followed. 

They also set up documents that will protect you if you become incapacitated.  Moreover, an estate planning attorney will develop documents that will ensure your children go to someone you trust, if for some reason you’re not around due to unforeseen circumstances (injury, death, etc).

Estate Plans Must Follow State Laws

Some people think that printing off estate plan forms from the internet will suffice.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the forms you print and fill out are legally binding.  This means that even though you think your best friend and favorite charity are going to receive some of your assets when you die they may not receive anything if your forms are not legally binding. 

Worst case scenario here, if your forms do not follow your state laws, a judge will determine how your estate is divided and split up.  This could cause a lot of pain, stress, and fighting amongst your family members.  Not to mention, your estate will be stuck paying for probate court to figure everything out.

Honestly, if you have children, you do not want a judge to determine to whom they go to if you and your spouse both die.  Or who should get your favorite grandfather clock. Or who gets the keys to dads car.  Or, or, or…

Having the correct legal documents are super important! 

Estate planning attorney in Brooklyn

Complex Family or Financial Situations

If you have a complicated family makeup or complex financial situations, doing a DIY (do it yourself) estate plan is a bad idea.  The more complex your situation, the more imperative it is to use a qualified estate planning attorney.

Complex family and financial situations include:

  • second (or later) marriage
  • own one or more businesses
  • own real estate in more than one state
  • have a disabled family member
  • have minor children
  • have problem children
  • Do not have any children
  • want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
  • have substantial assets in 401(k)s and/or IRAs
  • were recently divorced
  • recently lost a spouse or other family member
  • have a taxable estate for federal and/or state estate tax purposes

Estate Planning for Blended Families

When it comes to estate planning for blended families, it is crucial to consider the dynamics of each family relationship. In these situations, concerns often arise regarding inheritance size, executor appointment, and overall fairness. Creating an effective estate plan requires addressing these concerns. Here are some common estate planning options for blended families that can provide guidance:

  • Family Trusts: This type of testamentary trust involves consolidating all assets into a combined trust after the first spouse’s death. The advantage of this structure is that the surviving parent can distribute assets based on the individual needs of each child.
  • Marital Trusts: A marital trust allows assets to pass to the surviving spouse while also setting aside any remaining assets for the children after the surviving spouse’s passing. This approach enables both spouses to create a plan that includes all children in the family.
  • Outright Ownership: With this estate planning structure, all assets transfer directly to the surviving spouse without involving a trust for the children. While relatively simple, this approach relies on the trust between spouses that the surviving spouse will appropriately account for the children’s inheritance.
  • Immediate Bequests: Another option, not involving trusts, is to leave specific assets to each child within your will. Although discussing this choice with your spouse can be sensitive, it can be the best option when you want your child to directly inherit certain items.
Estate Planning Options for Blended Families Description
Family Trusts Consolidating assets into a combined trust after the first spouse’s death
Marital Trusts Assets pass to surviving spouse, with remaining assets set aside for children after the surviving spouse’s passing
Outright Ownership Assets transfer directly to surviving spouse without involving a trust for the children
Immediate Bequests Leaving specific assets to each child within the will, without involving trusts

In a first marriage, estate planning is typically straightforward, with everything usually going to the surviving spouse and then to any children. However, in the case of blended families, more individuals may have a claim on property, and each spouse may have specific wishes regarding distribution. Failing to establish the right estate plan can lead to various problems, including:

  • Disinheritance of Children: If a partner in a second marriage passes away without a will, their property automatically goes to the surviving spouse. When the surviving spouse also dies without a will, the property then passes to their own children, potentially disinheriting the children from the first marriage. Proper planning is necessary to ensure that your children from the first marriage inherit specific assets.
  • Delayed Inheritance for Children: Even if you have specified that your children should inherit certain property, without the appropriate estate planning documents, they may have to wait until your spouse’s passing before they can receive their inheritance.
  • Claims from Former Spouses: If you have not removed your first spouse as a named beneficiary on insurance policies or retirement accounts, they may still inherit these assets, regardless of remarriage or children. Smart estate planning can prevent your former spouse from making claims on your property.
  • Disputes over Authority and Responsibility: In the event of your demise without making plans for this possibility, remarriage and the presence of children from a previous marriage can lead to contentious disputes over custody and legal decision-making for your minor children.

By implementing the right estate planning tools, all these potential problems can be avoided, ensuring a smoother transition of assets and minimizing conflicts within blended families.

Finding an Estate Planning Attorney in Brooklyn Or Anywhere Else…

Finding an estate planning attorney may seem overwhelming at first but there are websites such as FindLaw and AVVO that find attorneys for you.  You can also just type in “estate planning attorney near me” into your favorite search engine such as Google.

Of course, you’re already here as well and that’s what we specialize in, estate planning for people like you!  If you would like help setting up a new estate plan or revise an existing one, contact us today at (718) 713-8080  We would love to help!