Would you give yourself root canal? Even if you read how on the internet?

Posted on May 12, 2014

by Margie Connolly

By Margie Connolly, Attorney at Law, Sugar Land Texas

The best estate planning advice I can give, and all that you really need to know to protect you and your loved ones – talk to an estate planning attorney. Yes, it’s really that simple, but in this day and age of the internet it seems that there are many people who believe that they can get the answer to any question, even a legal question, online, for free, and without any strings attached.

The problem with relying on the internet in the estate planning, probate, and estate and trust settlement context is that each and every situation is unique. Couple this with the unique laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and there is only a very slim chance that you will find the exact answer to your specific legal question in cyberspace.

OK, so you’re worried about how much it will cost for you to speak with an estate planning attorney. If you have limited finances, then be upfront about this when you make an appointment. Fortunately many questions can be answered in short order while others may take an hour or so for a meeting and then a few more for research. Some estate planning attorneys even offer free initial consultations so that they can determine exactly what you need and then give you a fixed fee or a fee estimate for the actual legal work involved.

The bottom line – when you seek the advice of an estate planning attorney, you will get the exact answer to your specific question, which will give you peace of mind and money well spent.

When considering if you need to hire an estate planning lawyer, consider this – estate planning is serious business. One wrong word or one missing signature can change the entire intent of a will or trust. Aside from this, the three reasons listed below should be enough to convince you to go out and find and hire a qualified estate planning attorney to draft your estate planning documents

State laws are very specific about what can and can’t be in a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney; who can and can’t serve as a personal representative, trustee, health care surrogate or attorney in fact; who can and can’t be a witness to a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney; and what formalities must be observed when signing a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney.

The old Latin saying, “Caveat Emptor,” or “Buyer Beware,” certainly applies to estate planning. If you think that you’ll be saving a few dollars by using forms found on the internet or in a do-it-yourself book to prepare your estate planning documents, then your family will be in for a rude awakening when they learn that part or all of your will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney isn’t legally valid or won’t work as you had anticipated. Thousands of dollars will then be spent by your loved ones working with a qualified estate planning attorney after the fact to fix your mistakes.

Take a look at your life and your assets to see if you fit into one or more of the following categories:

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

If one or more of these situations apply to you, then you’ll need the counseling and advice of an experienced estate planning attorney to create your estate planning documents. Otherwise, it may be a probate lawyer and your state’s department of revenue and/or the IRS that will receive the largest chunk of your estate.  Read more about Margie Connolly at https://mmconnollylaw.com