Don’t Trust Your Legacy to Just Anyone, 06/30/2009

Protecting our families and our assets after we are gone is an essential part of life. However, in planning our estates, we need to take into account the many potential life changes that may come up for our surviving family members and ensure that we have various protections built into our estate plan.

For example, it’s no secret that the divorce rate in this country is high and a significant percentage of Americans have been divorced several times. Additionally, in 2008 Americans filed more than 100,000 lawsuits, and the number is expected to increase dramatically because of the downturn in the economy. These statistics should concern all of us, but especially those people who are planning, or failing to plan, their estates. These are very real and potential dangers that may come up for you or your surviving family members, and which can be managed with an effective estate plan.

However, not all estate plans are created equal. There are many Wills and Living Trusts available that are designed to be one-size fits all, and which leave out many important provisions that are intended to protect your family and assets from the very real world concerns that affect many Americans.

Therefore, the most important part of your estate plan is not the documents. It is the knowledge used by the attorney who creates your plan. How do you know if someone has the necessary knowledge? Be sure to check the background of the attorney you hire and make sure that they meet the following criteria:

  • Experienced. Only an experienced professional has seen what works and what does not work. You do not want to be someone’s guinea pig.
  • Licensed. Many people purport to provide estate planning services, from annuity salespeople to paralegals. Estate planning involves complex legal issues which require a licensed attorney.
  • Focused. Licensed attorneys practice in areas from antitrust law to water rights law, and everything in between. An attorney who is focused in estate planning has the background, ability, and demonstrated commitment helping people with developing and implementing their estate plans.

The right attorney has the experience to avoid imprecision in the drafting of your documents. In addition to exposing your family and assets to the dangers of divorce and lawsuits, imprecision in documents can lead to family disputes which can wreak havoc on their emotional and financial well being. Further, an experienced, licensed, and focused attorney has the skills necessary to craft an estate plan that not only meets your goals, but also provides:

  • Remarriage Protection. If your surviving spouse remarries, it protects and passes your assets and your legacy to your children, instead of the new spouse.
  • Divorce Protection. It protects your children’s inheritance in case of their own divorce, ensuring that up to 50% does not just walk away with your future ex in-law.
  • Creditor Protection. It protects your children’s inheritance from the ravages of potential lawsuits and creditor claims, in case your children become the target of litigation.
  • Tax Savings. It provides the framework and flexibility to maximize savings on a range of taxes, including federal and state income taxes, local property taxes, and federal and state estate, gift, and inheritance taxes.
  • Tailored Solution. It is a plan that is tailored to take advantage of the laws of your state to best achieve your individual goals.

Your legacy and your family are the most important elements in your life. Protect them from the perilous times we live in and from untrained, inexperienced, or even unscrupulous “planners.” Meet with Morris Hall for a free consultation to get started.