The death of a loved one floods us with feelings of grief, loss, and sadness. As those left behind grapple with this human loss. The absolute last thing needed is the dagger of probate.
Probate is a trap for the unwary. It can ensnare one’s estate upon death, even for uncontested wills. This can plunges the estate into a slow and costly probate process. While this process is foreign and confusing to a layperson, it is a boon to estate lawyers’ pockets.
There is a misnomer that the government stands in the loot line. It is ready to pillage the decedent’s estate by way of what is known as the death tax. In truth and fact, it’s not death and taxes most of us should be worrying about but death and probate. In large part, this is due to a very friendly and favorable federal exemption. It shields most estates from taxation.
The federal exemption was not friendly at all. Estate attorneys had to resort to complicated trusts to shelter an estate from the death tax. Indeed, the federal exemption was as low as $675,000 in 2001. Upon one’s death, the taxman would cometh like the hovering presence of the grim reaper. He can carve out a low 37% tax on every dollar of the decedent’s estate over the exempt amount.
This tax was so unfair that President George Bush passed a massive tax reform relief package in 2001. It raised the federal exemption over time. Now it exceeds five million dollars. Many taxpayers gave an enormous sigh of relief. There was a possibility that these welcome and beneficial changes would phase out. Congress acted in 2013 passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act. This Act made permanent the dramatic increases in the federal exemption. The wisdom of Congress was not lost on the next presidential administration. In 2018 came the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which doubled the exemption. As we sit here today, the federal exemption is over $11,000,000 – yup, that’s a whopping eleven million dollars. And for a couple, this can exceed $22,000,000.
Sounds great, huh? Don’t relax yet. As the dagger of probate still awaits those who do not undertake proper estate planning. If the estate value does not exceed $150,000, then the estate is thrust into the nightmare that is probate. No matter what your estate is worth, you need an estate lawyer. They can help you with estate planning and living trust.
As an attorney, my law firm can make tens of thousands of dollars probating an estate. The cost of a living trust package averages only $1,000. It can insulate an estate from probate. It can allow those you leave behind the ability to tend to the affairs of your estate. The living trust leaves probate courts and with the lawyers on the sideline. A living trust customized to the individual client also carries many other features. They can protect your assets and your estate.
Do I need a lawyer for estate planning? Some people are tempted by the cheap “do-it-yourself” approach. Generic prepackaged trusts and sample estate plans are available on the internet. These assembly-line type trusts are peddled to a mass audience. Most clients are not trained in estate planning. They do not realize that any number of scenarios can arise. If not addressed in the trust, it could result in legal warfare. It can also cause the involvement of the probate court after the person’s death. You are particularly at risk when you need to address estate planning elder law.
Do I need an estate planning lawyer near me? Do you need a lawyer for an estate? An attorney is a sage choice for estate planning. A person using the “do-it-yourself” approach does not realize the mistake they made. The impact of the error is not felt until after their death. That is the danger of the do-it-yourself approach. The mistake is different from a hole left in your roof that is noticed as soon as the next rainfall. Instead, the mistake made by the “do-it-yourselfer” lies in silence. The damage is only made known until after the time of death, and by then, it is too late to correct.
How do I do estate planning? There is not a “one size fits all” for estate planning. “How to” guides are a trap for the unwary. The little-known fact is that an improperly drafted trust often winds up in court. This is due to a scenario that arose, which is not addressed in the estate planning trust.
How do I find an estate planning attorney near me? There are many ways to locate a qualified estate planning attorney. Most important is that your choice of an estate attorney be someone who informs and educates you. An estate planning attorney should also be patient. They should take the time to guide the client through the process. Almost all estate planning law firms provide a free consultation. The client should take advantage of the opportunity to meet the attorney. Get the lawyer to answer questions at no charge.
How much does it cost to hire an estate attorney? The cost of hiring an estate planning attorney can vary from one law firm to another. Factors in the cost include the estate’s size and whether the trust is for a married couple or a single person. Attorney fees range anywhere from $750 to $1,500 and can go higher for wealthy estates. We also offer estate planning trusts.
How can a Special Needs Trust Attorney help? The government has many hoops to jump thru for aging and/or disabled people. They require that you spend your assets before qualifying for Government financial help. This includes both income and medical help.
You can preserve assets and qualify for Estate Planning Elder Law. This includes Medicare and Social Security Income (SSI). A special needs trust attorney can help you establish a special needs trust. Or, you can use a supplemental needs trust. Such trusts are protected funds. They can be dedicated to protecting and preserving money for specific purposes. These include:
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“Wanted to update several Trust documents. Mr Hanks gave me good advice on several questions I had, gave me the fee amount to revise my documents and I had the finish product in a few days. I called several months later to ask about a referral to another professional in the area. His secretary called the next day with a name and phone number.” . . . S. Spotter
“We went to Paul for our Living Trust and Powers of Attorney. He was helpful and provided everything that was needed. If you need legal assistance and live in Santee, give Paul a call and see how he can help. I do not think you will be disappointed. We will use them for our Probate of Estate.“ . . . Les Ford
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