As we age, it’s important to start considering the legal process related to your estate. No matter the amount of wealth or assets you have, the most important thing is that they are yours. And, when you pass away, they should be distributed according to your wishes.
One of the most important actions you can take to make sure that your assets are protected and wishes are followed is to have a strong will or trust. Due to legal issues surrounding estates and end-of-life issues, these important legal documents can be complicated or even contested. Our specially-trained attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen can show you how estate planning lawyers help strengthen your wills and trusts.
What Is Probate?
One of the words you may often hear when constructing a will or trust is “probate.” Probate is a court-monitored process that can happen if a will or trust does not exist, is unclear, or is contested. However, if you have a strong will or trust, you can reduce or even avoid the probate process. This can protect your family from additional time, taxes, and court interference to settle your estate.
What Is the Role of a Probate Lawyer?
As with many areas of the law, it is best to get your legal advice from an attorney who specializes in the area you need. And, when it comes to strengthening your wills and trusts in Florida, our highly trained elder care and probate lawyers know the details in this area of law.
A probate lawyer may need to take on a number of different roles in the probate process. These may include:
- Preparing and providing documents that the probate court process may require
- Appraising personal property
- Figuring out where the deceased person held their estate assets (i.e. banks, stocks, etc.) as well as securing them for distribution to the beneficiaries
- Tacking down and managing any life insurance policy or payout
- Settling any debt, remaining bills, or taxes owed by the deceased person
- Appointing a personal representative
How Can Our Estate Planning Lawyers Help You?
While it is everyone’s hope that the legal documents and beneficiaries are straightforward, that isn’t always what happens. Due to our specialty in elder law, our estate planning attorney can help make your wills and trusts strong and clear from the beginning, strengthen any existing documents that you may have previously drafted, or manage any complications that come up throughout the entire process or after you are incapacitated or deceased.
The court-monitored probate process is something everyone would like to reduce and/or avoid, but you can benefit from having an expert estate planning lawyer in your corner to make that a reality. If you would like to discuss your existing wills or trusts, establish a strong will or trust, or simply have an initial consultation with compassionate, family-oriented attorneys who specialize in elder care, call our attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen.
As we enter our golden years, it is important to begin thinking about issues related to aging. Whether this is you or someone you care about, you may wonder about concerns such as healthcare, nursing home costs, what happens to your assets once you are gone, and what type of legacy you would like to leave. As the legal procedures around estates can be complicated, it can be helpful to enlist the help of an estate planning attorney. So, what exactly does an estate planning attorney do? That’s what we at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen are here to answer.
What is an Estate Planning Attorney?
An estate planning attorney is a lawyer who has specialized training in issues related to distributing your assets. They are familiar with details regarding beneficiaries, protecting your assets from probate, and avoiding unnecessary taxes.
Here are 5 Things an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do
- Designate Your Beneficiaries: If you do not legally establish where you want your assets to go, the courts will make a determination. You can avoid this complication by choosing people and/or organizations as beneficiaries.
- Avoid Unnecessary Taxes and Probate: Similar to the above, if you do not have a plan to distribute your legacy, Florida law will take over. This could incur unnecessary taxes as well as decisions that may not match your desires.
- Know What Legal Documents Best Fit Your Situation: Individual estates can vary from simple to complicated. There are different kinds of trusts as well as wills and durable power of attorney. We can help you figure out what you need for your specific situation.
- Protect Your Wishes if Disputes Arise: While we all hope that our wishes are carried out without question, disputes sometimes happen. Should an organization or loved one challenge your estate plan, we can remain above the emotions to protect your interests.
- Adjust Your Will or Trust as Needed: Given that you may draft your first will or trust years before your life ends, it is possible that the details of your estate, your family situation, or your wishes may change. If you wish to adjust the details of your legal documents during that time, an estate planning lawyer can help you update them.
Additional Reasons You May Want to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer
In addition to the list above, there are many other reasons why you may want to hire an estate planning lawyer. Regardless of the size of your estate, it is your estate, and you should determine your legacy. While many people leave assets to immediate family, estate attorneys can also help with specific situations such as:
- Charitable trusts
- Dis-inheriting specific relatives
- Blended family beneficiaries, such as a stepchild
- Protecting vulnerable family members who need Supplemental Needs Trust, Medicaid or SSI
- Any other unique way you would like your estate distributed
No matter how simple or complicated your estate, situation, or wishes, hiring an estate planning lawyer is a powerful way to help you distribute your assets according to your wishes. If you would like help planning for your estate and legacy in this way, contact the Law Offices of Amy B. Van Fossen to schedule a meeting with an attorney.
There is a lot to consider when making estate plans. Legal issues, health concerns, and costs may all be changing as family members work to make sure their aging loved ones are cared for in the best way possible. Two terms that come up often in this stage of life are estate planning and elder law. As you work to care for your loved one, you may be wondering, “What is the difference between estate planning and elder law?” Our attorneys at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A. are here to answer this question and other legal advice related to the legal services, health, and estate care of your family member.
What is Estate Planning?
Someone’s “estate” includes everything they own. Proper estate plans may include someone’s home, car, additional real estate, bank accounts, life insurance, physical possessions, and/or investments. Regardless of how much or how little someone has accumulated in their lifetime, it still has to go somewhere after they pass. The process of estate planning determines how and where you want your estate to go while planning for the smallest impact on taxes, court, and legal costs.
What is Elder Law?
Elder law is a specialized law practice focused on caring for the decisions of someone who has become incapacitated and/or at the end of life. The training of elder law attorneys equips them to handle the specialized needs of older adults, such as concerns related to medical care, nursing homes, long-term care, or even crisis planning. At the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, we are committed to welcoming you into a caring environment to discuss your concerns for your aging loved one.
Why Should I Hire An Elder Law Attorney?
Many people wonder if they need an elder law attorney. An elder law attorney is generally recommended for anyone after the age of 60 to begin preparing estate planning documents, power of attorney, etc. Even if you or your loved one have not encountered difficult health and/or end-of-life concerns, beginning your planning ahead of time can help assure that your wishes will be followed and the impact of probate and court delays will be minimized.
How do Estate Planning & Elder Law Work Together?
Estate planning and elder law go hand-in-hand because specialized elder care law attorneys are experts at estate planning. Because we understand the nuances of the law related to the care and concerns common for older adults, we can help you think through the many concerns that can arise during those years and effectively plan for the wishes you want to be carried out.
Whether you are just beginning to consider estate planning or elder law needs, or you have found yourself in a situation where you need to create plans and documents quickly, we can help. Please contact the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A. for all your elder care and estate planning needs!
Tip of the day today:
- Can I do my own estate planning documents?
- Do I need an attorney to prepare them or can I just do them myself?
We always recommend having an attorney prepare your estate planning documents. There are certain legalities and formalities that need to be followed to ensure your documents are in fact legal and valid. So this is not the time to DIY. Please contact an attorney to have your estate planning documents prepared. You can call our office to schedule an appointment.
Estate planning is a specialized field requiring the knowledge and skill of a professional. As such, one of the most important steps you can take in the estate planning process is choosing the right estate planning attorney. When choosing an attorney, it is imperative that you do your research. Credentials, testimonials/reviews, and personal recommendations are all important. Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A., has excellent ratings in all of the above categories, and we would be happy to assist you in your estate planning needs.
Here are Three Ways to Prepare for Your Estate Planning Consultation:
Itemize Your Assets
You must know what you have in order to protect it. Take an inventory of your assets and compile a list. Make sure to include identifying information for the assets, such as account numbers, policy numbers, etc. Items you should think about include:
- Your home and its valuable contents (e.g., antiques, electronic equipment, collections of art, jewelry, etc.)
- Your vehicles and boats
- Financial Assets – IRA, 401K, bank and brokerage accounts, annuities, insurance policies, stocks, and bonds. Sometimes, once people start digging, they come across an account or asset they had forgotten about.
Although not an asset, it is important to itemize your debts as well. Items you should think about include:
- Lines of credit
- Credit card debt
- Auto and other loans
Itemize a List of Organizations to Which You Belong
Think about the groups in which you belong or are interested in belonging. Some examples include VA, charitable organizations, religious groups, professional associations, college alumni groups, and political groups. These groups may offer services that you are aware of or may be organizations in which you want to include in your estate plan as a beneficiary.
Think About Who You Want To Be Your Beneficiaries and Executor
Who do you want to inherit your estate when you pass away? Is it an individual or a charity? If a person, who would be the back-up beneficiary if the primary person predeceased you? Do you have accounts that already have designated beneficiaries or POD/TOD?
You will also want to think about who your Successor Trustee/Executor will be. Will you include a back-up if the first person listed predeceases you? Additionally, who would be the appropriate person to designate as your health care surrogate and/or durable power of attorney agent? Who do you want to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated? You will want to consider reliability, trustworthiness, and dependability when deciding on the person to nominate for these positions.
Our team can help prepare the necessary estate planning documents to meet all of your needs, including but not limited to the desire to avoid probate, incapacitation planning, contingent trust planning for young children, and special needs planning for yourself and loved ones.
It is important to start thinking about this now. The earlier you start thinking about these topics, the less overwhelming it will be when it is time to make decisions. When the time comes to schedule your estate planning session, contact The Law Offices of Amy B Van Fossen, P.A in Brevard County, FL. We are here to help guide you through the process, step by step. It is not your job to think about all the “what-ifs” – let us do that for you. We pride ourselves on being well-trained, detail-oriented, and comforting during the estate planning process, and our goal is to make sure you and your family are cared for and satisfied.