Not everyone realizes how important adequate estate planning truly is, nor that it is crucial no matter your financial background. Estate planning is a process that every individual should go through to ensure that their property can be seamlessly distributed after their death.
If you rely upon verbal agreements with your loved ones, however, there is no guarantee that the distribution of assets will go as you had hoped — even if you trust your family members. Without a legally binding agreement, it is easy for the process to go awry. Additionally, if you have minor children, it is vital that you legally establish who will take over their custody should you pass away. With proper estate planning, this tragic situation will be far less strenuous for those it involves.
Experience in Estate Planning
Do not begin the estate planning process without an experienced legal professional at your side so that you don’t run the risk of making significant errors — errors that will complicate the property distribution process for your beneficiaries and heirs.
If you are in the Indio, California area, make sure to get in touch with Bochnewich Law Offices. We are a team of highly experienced legal professionals with a deep understanding of the estate planning process and how to best approach it. We also offer an unbeatable array of services, from trust litigation, administration, probate, and many more.
What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?
By choosing to hire an estate planning attorney, you will receive guidance and support throughout the entirety of the estate planning process. Remember, everyone has an estate, regardless of their level of wealth. Estate planning is a necessary measure for everyone to take, not just individuals with a substantial amount of assets.
Estate planning attorneys are also known as probate attorneys or estate law attorneys. These licensed legal professionals have a vast understanding of both state and federal laws when it comes to the process of taking inventory, valuing, dispersing, and taxing an individual’s estate after that person’s death. Your estate law attorney will be able to educate you on all of these facets of the probate and estate planning process so that you can be confident in your decisions.
More specifically, estate planning attorneys are able to help with a wide range of tasks, including:
- The creation of a will
- Setting up trusts of any type, allowing you to better protect your assets, whether it is during your lifetime or after death (for the sake of your beneficiaries)
- Selecting your beneficiaries
- Helping you to establish durable power of attorney
- Meeting with any relatives or loved ones who are involved in the estate
- Establishing how assets will be transferred to beneficiaries and heirs
- Helping clients to reduce the taxes and other fees that may be placed on their assets
- If necessary, an attorney can help you to establish restrictions on your estate
- Managing life insurance policies, retirement policies, and charitable donations
Additionally, an Indio estate planning attorney can help your loved ones to avoid the long, often highly expensive probate process. If you create a trust, then you can avoid the probate process altogether. Further, if you have designated all the assets in your estate to beneficiaries (even without the creation of a trust) it could still be possible to avoid probate.
Alternatively, if you attempt to go about the estate planning process on your own (or if you neglect estate planning entirely), then it is almost certain that your heirs will need to undergo probate. If you fail to correctly designate your beneficiaries, you could unknowingly be sentencing your loved ones to probate, even if you were unaware of the errors. With an estate planning attorney, errors like those can be easily avoided.
What Makes a Good Estate Planning Attorney?
As you go about your search for an estate planning attorney, there are a few attributes that you should be honing in on. The more of these qualities a potential lawyer has, the better.
Try to find an estate planning lawyer who:
- Specializes in estate planning or trust creation
- Can provide you with a fixed price for their estate planning services
- Is knowledgeable about a wide range of estate planning areas, rather than just one category (trust administration, probate, will creation, etc.)
- Can work both quickly and efficiently
- Serves as a guide throughout the entirety of the estate planning process
- Will keep in close contact with you
How Do I Choose the Right Estate Planning Attorney?
Like in any field of law, there are fantastic attorneys, but there are also subpar attorneys. It is vital that you perform the necessary research before you decide to hire anyone in particular. To find the best estate planning attorney for your needs, here are some tips worth following.
- Get a Referral From Another Lawyer or Financial Advisor
Chances are, other attorneys and financial professionals will be able to provide you with suggestions based on their insider knowledge and experience. If you are looking for a great starting point in your search for an attorney, referrals are always a possibility.
- Consider Attorneys Outside Your Own Region
Try not to limit yourself to a highly specific location as you research potential estate planning attorneys. More often than not, certain areas are going to contain only a handful of estate law attorneys. However, you should make sure that your lawyer is licensed within the state of California — just don’t restrict yourself to your own city, for instance.
- Ensure That They Specialize in Estate Planning
Although some lawyers will offer estate planning services, this does not necessarily mean that they are experienced in this subset of law. For the best possible estate planning experience, make sure that you are hiring an attorney with extensive experience in estate planning, specifically. Just because someone has substantial legal experience does not mean they will be familiar with the ins and outs of wills, trust creation, probate, and so on.
- Steer Clear of Online Legal Directories
Many people believe that online directories will provide them with the top legal options that are available to them. However, this is hardly the case. Oftentimes, attorneys will pay large sums of money to be featured on these directories, misleading potential clients into believing that they are one of the best in their field — even though that might not be the case.
What Questions Should I Ask an Estate Planning Attorney?
You should never hire an attorney (estate planning or otherwise) without first having an in-depth conversation with them about their services. However, this conversation will be useless if you are not asking the right questions, which can best indicate the reliability and skill level of a given lawyer.
Before you hire your estate planning attorney, make sure to ask the following questions:
- How long have you been practicing law? How long have you been practicing estate planning law, in particular?
- Is estate planning the primary focus of your practice, or does your legal specialty lie elsewhere?
- After you have drawn up the legal documents, will you also execute the estate plan?
- Are you willing to perform periodic reviews and make adjustments to the estate plan, if necessary?
- What does your estate tax experience look like? Will you be able to help me better manage estate taxes?
- Are you able to aid in the creation of a comprehensive estate plan, including will and trust creation, as well as life insurance?
- How much do you typically charge for your services? Do you charge a flat rate or on an hourly basis?
- How long does it usually take you to complete the estate planning process?
- Will you give me the opportunity to review the draft of the documentation?
If you have any additional questions (such as anything pertaining to your unique circumstances), then make sure to ask those as well. This is not a fully comprehensive list, although it is a great place to start.
How Much Does an Estate Lawyer Charge?
Depending upon the estate planning attorney you hire, the amount they charge can vary. A number of important factors go into determining this cost, including the lawyer’s legal experience, their location, and the complexity of your estate.
Further, estate planning attorneys will charge either a flat or an hourly rate. Flat rates are one-time fees for their services, allowing the client to know exactly what they can expect in terms of cost. Other lawyers will utilize an hourly rate, which can vary quite significantly depending upon the factors that were listed above.
If you hire a lawyer in a rural area, it is possible that their hourly rate will be as low as $150/hour. However, in urban areas, you will likely be paying a minimum of $200/hour. In any case, make sure to discuss payment with any estate planning attorneys you consider prior to hiring them.
Superior Estate Planning Services in Indio, California
For those in the Indio, CA area, make sure to turn to the legal services of Bochnewich Law Offices before beginning the estate planning process. We have vast experience in many areas of estate administration, including trust litigation, probate, trust administration, wills, irrevocable trusts, and more. To schedule a consultation with Bochnewich Law, contact us by phone, or simply fill out the contact form on our website.