Estate planning is about the proactive steps you can take regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. If you fail to develop an estate plan during the course of your life, someone else will have to make these decisions for you. You can think of your estate plan as a roadmap for those that survive you. It will provide your loved ones—as well as the courts, in some cases—clear guidance on your final wishes.
Often, the estate planning process begins with a simple discussion between the attorney and the client. The client will explain how they generally want their assets distributed upon their death. It is then up to the estate planner to come up with a solution for achieving the client’s goals.
It is important to consider estate planning as an ongoing obligation, much like elder law. Even if you have developed a strong estate plan, it is worth revisiting it from time to time as your priorities change.
Estate Planning Tools
There are many different tools available for estate planning lawyers. The most common is the last will and testament. While a will can provide for a clear division of assets, it may not be the best option for everyone.
Estate attorneys can rely on other tools besides a will to avoid probate and enact their client’s final wishes with fewer complications or delays. One of the most common examples is a trust. Often, wills and trusts will work together. For example, a “pour-over will” could outline the transfer of all a person’s assets directly into a trust. This is different from a standard will, which would identify the recipients of these assets directly.
Finally, an estate lawyer can do more than designate the distribution of your assets upon your passing. Your lawyer could also develop a medical power of attorney regarding your medical care at the end stages of your life. This allows you to make important decisions about your health ahead of time.
Discuss Your Future with an Attorney
Ultimately, the best time to discuss the difference between elder law and estate planning is during a confidential consultation with a prospective attorney.
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