A estate planning attorney Washington DC can help you accomplish your goals in the case of your death or incapacity. He or she will prioritize understanding your specific needs and provide comprehensive education regarding the options that are available to you.
Without a plan, your hard-earned assets may be subject to probate regulations or given to unintended beneficiaries. An estate planner will help you make important decisions including nominating someone to make health care-related decisions on your behalf and drafting a will.
Planning for the Future
People of all ages can benefit from creating an estate plan, regardless of the size or complexity of their assets. An attorney can assist with drafting legal documents that ensure a person’s wishes are carried out in the event of their death or incapacity, as well as minimizing taxes owed by family members.
An estate plan includes a last will and testament, healthcare and financial powers of attorney, as well as living trusts. It may also include specialized planning techniques, like methods to minimize death taxes and help heirs avoid probate. An attorney can provide guidance and support throughout the process. An added bonus is that they can act as a voice of reason to address potentially volatile family dynamics and conflicts. This can be especially helpful when a person has siblings who may fight over the estate or property after death. In addition, an attorney can assist with special needs planning, which provides for loved ones with unique medical and financial needs.
Preparing for Incapacity
Often, a person’s estate planning concerns extend beyond preserving their legacy after death and avoiding taxes. A comprehensive estate plan can also include a strategy for dealing with incapacity during life.
Our attorneys help clients prepare incapacity planning documents, including financial powers of attorney and advance health care directives. The latter conveys your wishes about end-of-life and other medical decisions that should be made if you cannot speak for yourself.
It is essential that the people you select as agents under your power of attorney and trustees in a revocable living trust have the skills and capacity to carry out these duties. It is also wise to discuss your plan with these individuals to prevent misunderstandings or disputes. Taking this proactive approach to incapacity planning can help your family avoid expensive and time-consuming court proceedings that must be initiated if you become incapacitated without these tools in place.
Creating or Revising Your Plan
Whether you established your estate plan last month or 15 years ago, it is a good idea to talk with an attorney about your plans and make changes when necessary. For example, if you move, it may be helpful to revise your documents to reflect the new state’s laws. Additionally, new tax rulings or case law could affect your plans and make them less effective.
A good rule of thumb is to have an estate planning review every three to five years or after a major life event. This will help ensure that your estate plan reflects your wishes and is up to date. You should also work to update any ancillary documents such as health care directives, power of attorneys, and nominations for guardians on a regular basis. These documents will not need to be changed as frequently as your trust or will, but they should still be reviewed and updated.
Working with an Attorney
The estate planning process is a sensitive and personal one. It’s important that you select an attorney who understands your family and goals. To choose the best candidate, you can ask friends and family for referrals or check out an attorney’s background to see how long they’ve been practicing. A well-established estate specialist will have a good understanding of recent changes to legal statutes and have the strategic know-how to carefully word your documents.
Many attorneys charge a flat fee for drafting an estate plan, which can include a last will and testament, power of attorney for financial matters and a medical power of attorney/advance health directive. Other attorneys may charge by the hour.
Having an estate plan will help keep arguments over your assets out of the courts and can prevent unnecessary stress for your loved ones. However, it’s important to have periodic reviews to ensure that your existing plans work with your current lifestyle and to address any potential changes in the law.