This is a very common question from clients, friends and acquaintances. With the availability of will kits and the ability to Google, there is a misconception that preparing a will is simple and that the time and cost to have a lawyer prepare yours is not worth it. Even the simplest of estate plans, however, requires advice from a professional. Below I have listed only some of the common reasons to hire a lawyer to prepare a will.
You Have Minor Children
If you have minor children, you will need to set up a testamentary trust (a trust that is created by a will) for your children in the event of the death of both parents. To ensure that this is done properly and that you have considered the various manners in which the trust can be arranged, including when and how the children will receive the money when they are adults, you should consult a lawyer. As an example, if the trust is set up improperly, you may end with a “bare trust” in which your children will receive the funds at 18 but in the interim there is no access to the funds for the children’s needs, such as education costs, health and dental costs and fees for extra-curricular activities.
You Have Other Dependents
If you have dependents for whom you are legally obligated to provide support or who may be disabled, you should consult a lawyer to determine what your obligations are to provide for continued support from your estate. For disabled individuals, there are specific rules about the amount and type of assets they can hold; if you run afoul of these rules by providing for a large gift in your will, you may, in fact, be inadvertently jeopardizing other supports to which the disabled individual is entitled.
Choosing Estate Trustees and Powers of Attorney
Heather Austin-Skaret has written a helpful blog on things to consider when choosing an Estate Trustee. Choosing individuals to manage your finances and personal care by Power of Attorney or to act as Estate Trustee may not be as simple as you think. Even in the simplest of cases, the administration of an estate can be time consuming and onerous. A lawyer will provide you with helpful guidance on how to choose an Estate Trustee and Powers of Attorney to ensure that the right individuals are chosen for the job.
Effective Tax Planning
Did you know that not all assets are required to go through probate on death? Do you know which assets can be transferred to a spouse via a tax deferred rollover? A lawyer will provide you with advice to ensure that your estate plan is created in manner that is tax effective.
Avoiding Family Disputes
While you may believe that your family would never fight over your estate, lawyers come across situations regularly in which family members who used to get along are fighting. A lawyer will provide helpful advice on how to hopefully avoid the family fight in the wake of a death.
These are just some of the reasons why you should have a lawyer prepare your will. A little planning and work upfront, can save a lot of headaches and heartache in the future.