As lawyers who offer estate planning services, sometimes a potential client will ask if they really must use a lawyer to help plan their estate. With the availability of internet searches, a person shouldn’t need a lawyer, right?
No, You Are Not Required to Use An Estate Planning Attorney. There is no law requiring that you have an attorney help you with your “When I die” planning or the planning needed if you became mentally incapacitated. However, a lack of planning for incapacity can cause circumstances that are not pretty. Remember the Terri Schiavo case in Pinellas County, Florida that drew national attention and continued for years in our courts?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Besides arguments about a mentally incapacitated family member, such as in Schiavo, there are at least a few things that can happen without the guidance of an estate planning attorney.
- You use a wrong word and your intent is misunderstood.
- You forget to address a family issue or don’t realize it is an issue.
- You do not have the required number of witnesses when you sign your Will or Trust.
- You do not “fund” your trust, or only partially fund it, and that renders your Trust useless to avoid probate or a formal guardianship.
- You are unaware of changes to state and federal laws that affect you, such as the federal tax law changes effective for 2018 and future years.
- Your family situation changes and your Will or Trust is not updated to reflect those changes or circumstances.
- Your assets change and the ownership of those assets are not titled to your trust (to be consistent with your estate plan).
- You rarely review your estate plan to see if changes are needed or recommended.
An Example of What Could Go Wrong: The One Witness Will or Trust. If your Will or Trust is signed and dated, but there is only one witness to your signature, in Florida that Will or Trust is invalid to carry out your wishes after you pass away.
Information and Documents You Find Online. Is the information you may find online current? How would you even know if the information is current? The sample documents you find online, are they current? How do you know? Is that sample document you found customized to your unique circumstances? Even if the content of the document is current, is the content applicable for the needs of your loved ones that you leave behind?
What Does An Estate Planning Attorney Do? An Estate Planning attorney will help you with current laws that affect how you plan and the content of the documents you will need, such as the content of your Will or Trust, so your planning will ultimately accomplish what you want done after your death. The attorney will assist in the proper “funding” of your trust and help you keep your Trust up to date. If you are not familiar with funding your Trust (it is a good bet you are not), please read the post in the Stross Law Firm, P. A. blog and view this short video about funding your trust and keeping it funded.
Estate and mental incapacity planning is not a do it yourself project. The attorneys and paralegals at Stross Law Firm take a team approach to estate planning. We will work with your other professional advisors, such as CPA, financial advisor, and insurance agent, to develop a comprehensive strategy for protecting your estate and achieving your estate planning goals.
To schedule your complimentary 30 minute estate planning consultation, please contact us at 813-852-6500. We look forward to helping you.