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What Do Trust Attorneys Do?

If you’re in the East Bay and need a Dublin trust attorney, you might want to read this quick post. It will walk you through how to choose the best person for the job, and outline their most essential duties.

So, without wasting your time, let’s get right into it.

What Does a Dublin Trust Attorney Do?

Hiring a trust lawyer is a vital step that can help make your whole estate planning process easier to manage. But if you’re trying to decide if you really need the guidance of a professional, here are three primary duties every trust lawyer offers their clients:

  1. A Dublin trust attorney is responsible for advising you on the best type of trust for your situation, as well as following state laws.
  2. They can also help with the administration of the trust, or ensure that your trustee has the necessary legal documents in order to manage the trust.
  3. A Dublin lawyer can also set up a trust on your behalf so your loved ones are able to avoid the probate process, as well as certain taxes.

How Do I Choose a Good Trust Lawyer?

When choosing a trust attorney, you want to look out for the following:

Schedule a Consultation

After reviewing testimonials, it’s best to make sure that you schedule a consultation to talk about your needs, and the right course of action. An experienced estate planning lawyer will have advice on whether or not a trust is right for your unique situation. And, if so, what kind of trust will offer the most comprehensive protection.

In general, it’s also not a bad idea to jot down a list of questions. It can be easy to forget something important once you’re face to face and taking in a lot of new information.

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Are They Experienced in Estate Planning?

With something so important at stake, it pays to hire a pro. You want to make sure that you choose an experienced Dublin trust lawyer to help you establish your goals. Take some time to review an attorney’s background before you make up your mind.

Remember, there are many types of law that people specialize in, so you definitely want to choose someone with a practice in estate planning. This is an important thing to consider, especially because laws can change over time. A Dublin lawyer who doesn’t specialize in estate planning may not be aware of those changes.

Related Content: Why Choose Lewman Law For Your Estate Planning?

Communication Skills

It may seem like a given, but not all attorneys have good communication skills. Be sure to hire someone who answers your questions in enough detail, and listens carefully to your concerns. When it comes to communicating with your Dublin attorney, a little chemistry can go a long way.

Do You Need a Dublin Trust Attorney?

If you’re in search of a reputable trust lawyer in the East Bay, then you’re in the right place. At Lewman Law, we have the experience you need to handle all of your estate planning concerns. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation. You can also click this link to read client testimonials.

Filed under Estate Planning Tips

Is Your Estate Plan Incapacity Proof?

For most people, it is perfectly natural to think about estate planning only in terms of planning for death. While planning for your death is very important, if that is all you plan for, your planning can quickly become woefully inadequate. As medical knowledge and technology have improved over the decades, so too has modern medicine’s ability to keep people alive for much longer. It is no accident that in many areas of the country, long-term care facilities such as assisted living centers and nursing homes are being built at record pace.[1]

At first blush, staying alive longer would seem to be a good thing. And for many people, it is. However, simply living longer does not always result in ideal circumstances. Longevity coupled with physical or mental incapacity can be extremely challenging if you fail to make arrangements for someone to assist you during that period of time. On the other hand, with proper incapacity planning, you can rest assured knowing that your affairs are in good hands, out of the public eye, and being handled without the expense of lawyers, courts, and unnecessary complications.

What is Incapacity?

Before we discuss how to plan for incapacity, it is important to clarify what it means to be incapacitated. Each state has its own method for determining legal incapacity, and most have enacted laws that define what incapacity is. For example, in states that have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, an incapacitated person is typically defined as follows:
“Incapacitated person” means an individual who, for reasons other than being a minor, is unable to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate technological assistance.[2]
Although some states have defined incapacity more broadly or more narrowly, in most states, this is a common definition of legal incapacity. From a purely practical perspective, however, incapacity can be described as an ongoing condition where you simply do not have the mental ability to take care of routine tasks for yourself without assistance from someone else. Such tasks might include paying your bills, cooking your meals, bathing, grooming or dressing yourself, taking your own medications, or being unable to protect yourself from financial or physical exploitation.

Why a Will Alone Will Not Cut It

Almost all estate plans created in this country include a will. A will is a legal document that allows you to memorialize your wishes for what you would like to happen after you have died. For example, a will allows you to

  • authorize someone to handle your final affairs after your death (an executor or personal representative);
  • name who will receive your accounts and property and in what shares, including successor or backup beneficiaries; and
  • designate guardians of your minor children.

Did you notice a theme in the list above? They are all things that must be handled only after you have died. That is an important point. A will only becomes effective once you are dead.

So does a will help you if you become incapacitated? The short answer is no. A will is not any help if you become incapacitated. To provide some level of incapacity planning in your will-based estate plan, you must obtain additional legal documents, including at least a financial power of attorney and an advance directive.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that you sign before you become incapacitated that allows you to appoint a trusted individual to act as your agent (meaning the appointed individual can act on your behalf). In this document, you spell out what an agent may do: a general POA allows an agent to handle most of your financial affairs whereas a limited POA restricts an agent’s actions to certain things or for a limited amount of time. Legally, your agent must act in your best interests when handling your property and legal affairs. A POA can, and in many cases should, grant the power to take the following actions:

  • handle your deposit and banking accounts
  • withdraw funds from your retirement accounts
  • enter into contracts
  • collect your mail
  • deal with your various insurance companies
  • make investment decisions on your behalf
  • sell, mortgage, lease, and manage real property

You can also determine when your agent is allowed to act on your behalf. It can be restricted to only after you have become incapacitated (a springing POA) or take effect as soon as you sign the document (an immediate POA). When planning for your incapacity, it is important that your POA be durable, which means that your incapacity will not affect the validity or effectiveness of the document.

If you have a will-based estate plan and no financial POA (or an invalid one), your loved ones will have to go to court to have someone appointed to take care of these matters for you through a process known as guardianship or conservatorship. This can be a very costly, public, and time-consuming process for your loved ones during a stressful and emotional time.

Advance Directives

An advance directive is a document or set of documents in which you can appoint an individual to act on your behalf regarding medical decisions and, if authorized under your state law, also memorialize some of your medical and end-of-life wishes. Similar to a financial POA, a medical durable POA is one kind of advance directive that allows you to appoint an agent, often referred to as a medical or healthcare agent or proxy, who has the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself (i.e., if you are unconscious, even temporarily).

Another kind of advance directive is a living will, which is a legal document in which you can specify the kinds of end-of-life decisions that you want your doctors or healthcare agent to make on your behalf. In some states, an advance healthcare directive will contain both a power of attorney and end-of-life instructions; other states require separate legal documents. Regardless of the format, these documents are a critical component of making your estate plan incapacity proof. By naming someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you, similar to the decisions you would have made if you could still communicate your wishes, you can ensure that you receive the care and medical treatment that is most appropriate for you.

If you do not have an advance healthcare directive, your loved ones will be forced to go to the court and have a judge decide who can make medical decisions for you if you are not able to make or communicate your wishes.

Trust-Based Estate Planning and Incapacity

For those who want to make their estate plans truly incapacity proof, a revocable living trust can be a powerful legal tool. This type of trust has become the foundation of many well-constructed estate plans in this country. A living trust is a legal agreement between a trustmaker (a person with the money and property, sometimes called a trustor, settlor, or grantor) and a trustee (the person charged with managing, investing, and handing out the money and property). For most revocable living trusts, the trustmaker changes the ownership of the trustmaker’s accounts and property from the trustmaker as an individual to the trustee of the revocable living trust, who is often initially the trustmaker himself or herself. The trustee agrees to manage and protect the money and property for the benefit of beneficiaries. In a revocable living trust, the trustmaker is also the beneficiary during the trustmaker’s lifetime. Holding the property in this type of legal structure creates a great deal of flexibility to deal with incapacity issues as they arise.

For example, if you created a revocable living trust, named yourself as trustee, and transferred most of your property into the trust, you could use and enjoy your property just as you do today. But if you suddenly became incapacitated, a successor trustee (named by you beforehand in your trust document) could quickly and seamlessly step into your shoes as trustee to continue managing the trust property for your benefit throughout any period you were incapacitated. All of this could be accomplished outside of the courtroom, maintaining privacy and eliminating burdensome court and attorney fees in the process. Then, when you die, your successor trustee would have the authority to continue to manage the trust property or give it to remaining living beneficiaries (typically, your loved ones that you leave behind). Again, this can be done completely outside of the court system, thereby eliminating significant cost, delay, and invasion of your and your loved ones’ privacy.

Do not forget that this incapacity planning is only as good as the individuals you choose to serve in these roles. If the person or people you named can no longer fulfill their responsibilities, you will need to change your legal documents as soon as possible to ensure that the best possible people are serving in these crucial roles.

Finally, it is important to remember that a trust-based plan should still include a will, financial POA, and advance healthcare directive. Each of these documents has important legal functions designed to address circumstances that a trust alone cannot.

By carefully crafting each of these legal documents with our help, you can feel confident that your loved ones and the property that you have worked your whole life to obtain will be in good hands if incapacity strikes. We are here to help you think through and implement each decision that goes into making your estate planning truly incapacity proof. Give us a call today.

[1] Ronda Kaysen, Some Builders Are Ready for the Wave of Seniors, N.Y. Times, Aug. 23, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/realestate/commercial/builders-of-senior-housing-respond-to-growing-need.html?auth=login-google.

Brought to you by: LEWMAN LAW, APC

The focus of Lewman Law is estate planning, estate litigation, probate, trust administration, and Medi-Care planning which is designed to help seniors and their families preserve their legacy and prevent the devastating financial effects of long-term care. Please contact us at: (925) 447-1250

Filed under Estate Planning Tips

5 Reasons You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning is an essential aspect of protecting yourself and your loved ones. Regardless of whether or not you’ve reached retirement age, it’s important to take care of your estate plan in advance. We simply never know what the future holds, so it’s best to be prepared today. If you’ve been Googling, “estate planning attorney near me,” you probably have some questions. Read on to learn more about why it’s so important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you navigate this important task.

1) Ensure Your Will is Legally Binding

One of the most common reasons to seek the services of an estate planning attorney is to ensure that your will is actually legally binding. Unfortunately, when people try to write their own wills, they often make mistakes. A will that isn’t drafted properly won’t hold up in court and may, in fact, be entirely disregarded.

Another mistake people make is deciding not to create a will at all, or putting it off until it’s too late. This is just as problematic, of course, for obvious reasons. It leaves the court to determine how to distribute your assets and personal belongings.

If you don’t yet have a will, an estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through each step of the process to make sure that it’s legally binding and no mistakes are made.

2) To Prevent Family Disputes

Unfortunately, when individuals pass away without a clear estate plan, arguments often arise between family members. In order to avoid putting your loved ones in this painful situation, it’s best to hire a Livermore estate planning attorney to help you make your wishes as clear as possible.

3) To Select a Guardian For Dependent Children

Your estate plan is especially important if you have dependent children. You can use your estate plan to specify things like who would care for your children if something happened to you. Clearly, this is one of the most important aspects of estate planning for parents of minor children.

Related Content: Wills and Estate Planning Concerns for Parents

4) Ensuring Your Funeral Wishes are Carried Out

Some people don’t give much thought to their funeral, but if you have specific wishes, such as religious preferences, an estate planning attorney can help you include these details. For example, if you’d prefer to be cremated rather than buried, you can state your request in a legal document.

5) Naming an Executor For Your Estate

Another detail that your attorney will be able to help you with is naming a legal executor for your estate. This person will be tasked with ensuring that all of the beneficiaries of your estate receive their inheritance, and that your funeral wishes are carried out to your specifications.

Related Content: 3 Estate Planning Questions to Ask Yourself

Estate Planning Attorney Near Me?

So, if you’ve been searching for an “estate planning attorney near me,” you’re definitely on the right track. Contact Lewman Law at (925) 447-1250 to get started today. Or, click here for hours and location, as well as a contact form.

Filed under Estate Planning Tips, Uncategorized

Can All Attorneys Draft Wills?

If you’re thinking about having a will drafted, you may be wondering if all attorneys can help you through this important process. While it’s not required by law to hire an attorney to prepare your will, it is wise to do so in order to make sure it’s not invalid due to technical mistakes or a failure to meet legal requirements that you weren’t aware of. Read on to learn more about attorneys that do wills.

Estate Planning Attorneys

In order to ensure that your will holds up in court, you need the expertise of a lawyer who specializes in this area. It’s true that most general family law practitioners may also offer some estate planning services, but, in general, attorneys that do wills are called estate planning attorneys. They’re the real experts.

Why Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Any time you need to hire a professional, it’s always best to choose someone based on their specialty. For example, there are many doctors, but they each have experience in caring for different systems in the body. The law is like this as well. It’s complex, so it would be impossible to become an authority on every aspect of it. When you’re ready to settle your estate planning, it’s best to call an attorney who has years of experience.

Attorneys That do Wills

Attorneys that do wills can also help your loved ones execute your estate after you’re gone. They draw upon their expertise in the area of estate law to draft solid legal documents, outlining your wishes in a way that leaves no room for interpretation. This is essential because any confusion about a will can cause needless conflict within a family, and even lengthy court battles.

Contact Lewman Law

It’s important to plan for the future. And not only that, but to keep your plan current as circumstances change. Whether you’re considering drafting a will for the first time, or updating your estate planning documents, Lewman Law is here to help. Protect your family and your assets. Call us today at (925) 447-1250. Or, click here to fill out a contact form.

Filed under Estate Planning Tips, Uncategorized