It seems like you can find anything on the internet these days, even free Estate Planning documents. You may be tempted to save yourself the time and money involved in hiring an estate planning attorney and just print off a few forms. Is a do-it-yourself Will enough to protect your family home and life savings? Probably not.
Don’t risk your family’s future by trying to handle this complicated legal process by yourself. Contact our Estate Planning team. We’ll take a look at your situation, talk to you about your goals, and let you know how we can help you achieve them. You’ve worked hard for what you have, and our decades of real-world experience can help you protect your assets for future generations.
Estate Planning Attorneys at Ross & Shoalmire, P.L.L.C.
One reason a cookie-cutter approach to Estate Planning doesn’t work is that every family is unique. If your family situation includes divorce, minor children, no children, considerable assets, a family business, remarriages, a commitment to charitable giving, or disabled dependents, your Estate Plan will have to address the issues these situations can create. We offer the following services, tailored to your specific needs:
- Wills. With a will, you can name beneficiaries, designate a guardian for minor children, keep assets from certain people, and name someone to execute the Will. If a Will is an adequate tool for your situation, we will draft one that accomplishes your goals.
- Trusts. To avoid Probate and disburse your assets in a specific way, you will need to create a Trust. There are several types of Trusts, and our team will help you choose the right vehicle to meet your needs. With a Trust, you can plan for dependents with special needs, set aside money for college tuition for children or grandchildren, avoid some taxes, and save your heirs from the Probate process after your death.
- Powers of Attorney. By designating someone to act on your behalf in legal, financial, and healthcare matters if you become incapacitated, you will protect your assets and your family in a worst-case situation. Your Power of Attorney designee will be able to make healthcare decisions for you, pay your bills, file tax returns, and sell property.
- Succession Plans. If you own a small business, our attorneys can help you create a plan for succession that outlines the transfer of ownership or control, resolves liquidity issues, and treats family members equitably. When you don’t have a Succession Plan in place, your business will suffer and you may create unnecessary family strife after your passing.
- Tax Planning. We understand the complexities of the ever-changing tax laws in the United States and will help you create an Estate Plan that minimizes the taxes that will be owed upon your passing so that you can leave as much as possible to your loved ones.
- Elder Law. A specialty practice area at Ross & Shoalmire, our Elder Law services help clients plan for the possibility of long-term care, including protecting hard-earned assets from the high cost of nursing homes.
The ultimate goal of any Estate Plan is Asset Protection. Our team will take the time to get to know you on a personal level, talk you through your options, and help you create an Estate Plan that gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family will be provided for if something happens to you.
Is Estate Planning a Do-It-Yourself Project?
We live in a do-it-yourself world. You can watch videos on the internet to learn how to do just about anything. For instance, you can prepare your own taxes at home with software bought at the office supply store while dyeing your own hair. However, just because it seems easy to do a task yourself does mean it really is. More importantly, the fact that it seems easy does not mean doing it yourself is a good idea.
Elder Law and Estate Planning are other areas that seem like they ought to be simple to accomplish with information available on the internet and online do-it-yourself services for tasks such as Last Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know, and in elder law a misstep can cost you in time, money, and emotions from problems or conflicts created by you trying to do things yourself. Here are five reasons to partner with an Elder Law Attorney for your family’s sake:
The situation is never as simple as you think.
Take a look at your life and your assets to see if you fit into one or more of the following categories. Check off as many as apply:
You’re in a second (or later) marriage
You own one or more businesses
You own real estate in more than one state
You have a disabled family member
You have minor children
You have problem children
You don’t have any children
You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
You have substantial assets in 401(k)s and/or IRAs
You were recently divorced
You’ve recently lost a spouse or other family member
You have an incapacitated spouse in need of long-term care
If one or more of these situations apply to you, you’ll need the counseling and advice of an experienced Elder Law Attorney. Otherwise, your family may end up in a big fight with each side paying attorneys (with your money) to sort it all out, or the state might receive the largest chunk of your assets.
It is not just about dying.
Most people focus on what happens to their property when they die. But what if you should become mentally or physically incapable of taking care of yourself and your own personal business before then?
Numerous options are available to address to these circumstances as economically and efficiently as possible from Powers of Attorney to Living Trusts. A Revocable Living Trust can be established for someone else to manage your assets if a time comes when you can no longer do so yourself. An Elder Law Attorney can explain these options to you so you have a plan in place for such an eventuality.
Doing it yourself is very difficult (and usually more expensive in the long-run).
You might think that you’ll save a few dollars by filling out that Medicaid application yourself or using forms found on the internet, but your family could be in for a rude awakening when they learn that you won’t qualify for benefits. The same holds true for estate planning documents if you attempt to create them yourself or with the help of some generic, one-size-fits-all software. Part or all of your Will, Trust, or Medical or Financial Power of Attorney might not be legally valid or won’t work as you intended. You and your family could end up spending thousands of dollars more after the fact to fix unnecessary mistakes than what a qualified Elder Law Attorney would have cost you in the first place.
An Estate Planning Attorney has loyalties only to their client.
Over the years, I have seen many people offer “free” services to seniors in the area of estate planning, elder law and Medicaid/VA benefits qualification. These so-called experts call themselves “Certified Senior Advisors,” “Asset Protection Specialists,” “Public Benefits Planners,” and so on. In my experience, these people play on the economic fears of seniors by offering “free” services, while getting paid for services attached to the “free” offer. Often these advisors are paid commissions from the sale of annuities to the seniors or a “finder’s fee” from retirement communities for bringing in a new resident. These advisors are financially motivated to steer you in the direction which gets them a paycheck. Further, even business managers at nursing facilities, who may assist in completing Medicaid applications, are responsible only to the company that signs their paycheck - not to you or your family. Elder Law Attorneys are transparent about their costs and have no hidden agendas or divided loyalties. They only represent your interests. Furthermore, attorneys are licensed professionals who are accountable to the State Bar. Many of these other “experts” have no licenses and have no accountability if they ruin your family’s planning or finances.
An Estate Planning Attorney understands issues affecting seniors and their families.
An Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney has cultivated understanding and gained experience in a long list of subjects that impact seniors, including:
- Preservation/transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home
- Medicare claims and appeals
- Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues
- Disability planning, including use of Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Trusts, Living Wills, health care decisions making
- Estate planning, including planning for the manage men of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of Trusts, Wills, and other planning documents
- Administration and management of Trusts and Estates
- Long-term care placement in nursing homes
- Financial planning and taxes
- Nursing home issues including questions of patients’ rights and nursing home quality
- Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases,
- Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits, and pension benefits
- Mental health law
This unique knowledge separates Elder Law Attorneys from general practice attorneys. You wouldn’t use a family practice doctor to replace a heart valve, and you should see an Elder Law Attorney for matters like those described above instead of a general practice attorney. A good Elder Law Attorney takes a holistic approach to you and your family’s needs. This entails much more than just signing documents and focusing on short term issues. It involves a personal connection and building long-term relationships with clients. The peace of mind you gain from partnering with an expert Elder Law Attorney to look out for you is priceless
Contact Us Today to Get Started
It’s never too soon to have a conversation about your future. Whether you are newly married, raising young children, enjoying your empty nest, or planning for retirement, we will tell you over the phone about the ways we may be able to help you protect your future and your loved ones. With four offices throughout Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas, we are conveniently located for clients from Dallas to Little Rock. Call or fill out our contact form to get started today!