We live in very different times than we lived in decades ago. These days, you can simply ask your smart phone any question, and it will provide you with an answer instantly.
The Internet has changed everything as well. There are many different do-it-yourself resources that you can access online, and boilerplate legal documents can be purchased and downloaded. This can make you wonder why you would ever need an estate planning attorney to devise your plan.
Before you decide that you can plan your estate on your own using tools that you get online, you should understand some facts. To provide a basic analogy, if you are hearing some kind of strange sound coming out of your car engine, you could research it online. You may find a possible cause, and you could also find a way to replace the part on your own.
However, because you are not an automobile mechanic, you may not understand all the facts. As a result, you may change the wrong part, and the problem will ultimately get worse.
This applies to estate planning as well, but the stakes are much higher when you are passing along everything that you have earned to the people that you love the most.
Choosing the Right Documents
Most people don’t think a lot about estate planning. For many, a last will is the only document that comes to mind when they consider the subject. If you were to go forward under this impression, you may decide that you can simply download a generic, boilerplate last will template off the Internet and fill in the blanks when you get older.
This is a shortsighted perspective on many different levels. For one thing, when it comes to “getting older,” estate planning is a responsibility that is important for all self-supporting adults. It is not exclusively for senior citizens. You have no way of knowing what the future has in store for you, and you should express your wishes in a legally binding fashion.
Single adults should take care of this responsibility, but it is extraordinarily important for people who are married, and the importance is greater for younger adults who have children.
Plus, you should understand what document you should utilize. A last will is not the only choice, and in many cases, it would not be the best choice. There are a number different types of trusts that can be used instead, and a trust can be much more beneficial when certain circumstances exist. In fact, very significant negative consequences can come about if a will is used.
For example, a will would facilitate lump sum asset transfers to the inheritors. If you have a loved one who is not good with money, this individual could squander the bequest. Later on, severe hardships could come about when there’s no one to turn to for help.
It would be possible to use a trust to make sure that the person who is not a good money manager does not burn through his or her inheritance too quickly. You could have a trustee manage the assets in the trust, and you can instruct the trustee to distribute assets to the beneficiary on an incremental basis.
Special needs planning is another consideration. If you have a loved one with special needs, this family member may rely on Medi-Cal as a source of health insurance. Income is another consideration. People with special needs often receive ongoing income from a program called Supplemental Security Income.
You cannot qualify for these programs if you have assets to speak of in your own name. If you download a will off the Internet and leave a direct inheritance to a person with special needs, benefit eligibility could be forfeited.
On the other hand, if you consult with an estate planning attorney, you would learn about supplemental needs trusts. Your estate planning attorney could help you establish this type of trust, and assets in the trust could be used to help out the loved one who was enrolled in government benefit programs. The expenditures would not impact eligibility.
See Us For a Consultation
We have covered a few things in this blog post, but there are many other reasons why you may want to work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney when you are devising your estate plan. Simply call our office for an appointment at (916) 437-3500.
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