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Estate Attorney

Estate Attorney

November 01, 2023

Why bother with an Estate Attorney?

As you begin your estate planning process, you must understand the role of an estate attorney in handling your estate assets. To begin, search for a local estate lawyer who can fulfill your requirements without breaking the bank. Here are a few choices:

  1. Contact your Financial Advisor or Accountant.
  2. Through local probate courts.
  3. Local, county, and state bar associations.

Compile a list of potential attorneys and identify the scope of their practice and services that you could use. As a business owner, you can identify some useful and essential services such as establishing a succession plan, reviewing your estate holdings ownership structure, addressing business liquidity needs, and maintaining corporate structure records. You can look to estate attorneys to handle your estate and ensure that you receive end-of-life care.

To take care of personal matters related to the end of life, it's a good idea to create a living will. This’ll help with important decision-making during that time. Usually, this authorization comes in the form of a durable power of attorney. Your attorney should also ensure that elderly abuse does not occur in your home or elsewhere, and should it occur, the individuals responsible for it are held accountable.

To address asset distribution, determine if you need to set up a charitable plan and/or foundation. In your case, an estate attorney will help you create a will to assign the assets to your beneficiaries during the drafting process. Establishing a trust can protect your assets and ensure proper transfers if deemed appropriate. Lawyers can create different types of trusts, including irrevocable life insurance, testamentary, and living trusts. They can then transfer assets into the trust and manage it accordingly. This includes reviewing current and intended beneficiaries for all your financial accounts and protecting your assets.

It is best to avoid probate, the courts, and the bureaucratic process related to these two. Probate includes filing fees ($50 - $1200), certificate fees ($5 - $20/copy), notifications ($10 - $300), executor/bond fees, or fees charged by the courts or state. Make sure to correctly title your assets and assign some beneficiaries to lower probate risk. For anything that cannot be registered as either joint, transfer/payable on death, or have a named beneficiary you’ll want to have this asset/property held in a trust. If you still must go through probate, make sure to use a lifetime gift exemption for your property to simplify the probate process.

An executor of an estate must be a U.S. resident over the age of 18 without any prior felony convictions. In Florida, they must be a relative or spouse of the deceased or the spouse of a relative. Ideally, the individual should live in the same state as the estate. If the executor is unable to or unfit to be appointed and there’s no alternative, then a judge will direct an executor using priority listing. It typically follows the trend of spouse, child, grandchild, parent, sibling, another beneficiary, and creditor. The estate attorney can also act as the executor of the estate as an impartial third party.

The total cost depends on the complexity of the situation. Three cost structures are typical for estate attorneys’ pay. Fixed fee, hourly rate, or less commonly as a percentage of the estate’s gross assets. Other than free consultations, $200 to $400 an hour is the range to expect when searching for an estate attorney. The fixed fee for a typical client will vary but will usually fall under $2,500.

Before your meeting, create a list of your estate assets, outline your goals, draft a plan, and begin the review process. Back up important documents and secure them, ideally in a locked fireproof box. This’ll help you understand what you’re trying to accomplish and save you time and money during the planning process with your estate attorney. During your meeting, ask about your attorney’s law practice, experience, and education. Discuss your preferred methods of contact and a designated person to contact.

Then, obtain an expected timeline for the estate plan's completion, the billing structure, your estimated costs, and any potential charges not included in the estimates.