Do you really need a lawyer to help with your estate planning?

In an age of technology and the internet where information is literally at your fingertips, you may wonder why you couldn't just look up how to do a will and get it done. After all, everyone keeps telling you that you need a will, so can't you just go onto the internet, find a form and fill it out?

Not really. Well, you could do that, but more than likely, it won't comply with Arizona law, and that could make it invalid upon your death. In addition, a will may not be enough to protect your assets or to distribute them in the way you wish to do so. Then there is the question of powers of attorney and other documents that you may need that protect you in the event you become incapacitated.

An estate-planning attorney can help with many situations

These days, life is rarely simple. You may have complications in your life that make estate planning on your own extremely risky. For instance, if you fall into one of the following categories, you may be better off working with a lawyer:

  • The value of your estate exceeds the federal estate tax exemption
  • This is your second (or more) marriage
  • Your spouse recently passed away
  • Another relative recently passed away
  • You own at least one business
  • You recently divorced
  • You own real estate in multiple states
  • You have substantial retirement assets
  • A member of your family is disabled
  • You have no children
  • You have minor children
  • You have problem children

Creating an estate plan under one or more of these circumstances may require more experience and knowledge than you possess or can discern from the internet.

An estate-planning attorney should know the law

Simply put, estate-planning lawyers keep up with current laws regarding all things estate planning. Their job is to know the options and understand how to put together a plan that will meet your goals and wishes. They know these things so that you don't have to know them. For instance, do you know what Arizona law says about executing your will? Are there formalities to make sure your powers of attorney work if needed? Can you require your son or daughter to finish college to receive an inheritance?

Making suppositions about the answers to these questions or relying on the internet could put your surviving family members in a bad position after your death. It could take a substantial amount of time, money and effort to correct the mistakes.

Without an attorney, you run the risk of getting your estate-planning documents wrong. If a probate court invalidates your will, the state's intestacy laws come into play. That means that the state decides who inherits your assets instead of you. If a court invalidates your health care power of attorney, you could spend precious time not receiving the medical care you need. In order to avoid these eventualities, it may be worth discussing your situation with an estate-planning attorney.

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The Law Offices of Mary T. Hone, PLLC
10505 N. 69th Street, Suite 1400
Scottsdale, AZ 85253

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