It’s never too early to start making plans for your estate. Choosing an Orange County estate planning attorney is the first step to creating a solid, reliable estate plan that will fulfill your wishes and obligations when you pass away.

If you have never hired an attorney before, the idea can be overwhelming. However, it’s worth the effort to find an expert to make sure that your plans will benefit your loved ones.

These guidelines can help you find the right attorney for your situation.

  1. Identify Your Needs

Before you start your search, it’s a good idea to make a list of your main estate planning needs. That will help you find an attorney who focuses in those areas. 

Common documents included in estate planning are your will, trust, guardianship declarations, powers of attorney, and more. However, if you have some specific concerns, it’s best to go into your search with those in mind.

Providing for a disabled beneficiary might require some additional planning beyond the basic estate plan process. If you have assets in multiple states, or even outside the US, it’s a good idea to look for someone who can help you handle that.

Your specific areas of concern can guide your search for a skilled and reliable attorney. 

  1. Learn the Basics of Estate Planning

To get the most out of your meetings with an attorney, consider doing some research about estate planning basics to get a better idea of your options. Information available online provides tremendous resources for learning about the law. 

Consider setting aside some time to learn what a pour-over will is, or about the different types of trusts available. You can also search for information that is relevant to your individual circumstances as well.

Learning these things ahead of time will make it easier to make important decisions when you set up your estate plan. You’ll also be able to have a more productive consultation with your attorney when you sit down with them.

  1. Find a Skilled Attorney

Estate planning can be a complex field with many legal intricacies. While many lawyers work in this field, not all make it their focus.

Someone who works in estate planning has the experience needed to prepare your documents and draft a plan that covers your main concerns. 

If you have even more specific needs, you can look for specialists within the estate planning field. If you’re concerned about avoiding probate fees, you can seek out an Orange County probate attorney.

If you have children who are still minors, you may want to find a lawyer who can help you create a trust with stipulations that will keep them financially secure until they reach adulthood. Other people may want to create a Medicare trust that will enable them to access health benefits. 

An attorney with years of experience can provide valuable insight into your unique financial situation and help you make informed decisions that will benefit your loved ones. 

  1. Schedule Consultations

Many attorneys and law firms offer free initial consultations for potential clients. Meeting with an attorney in person gives you the chance to go over your case briefly and determine whether you are a good fit for the services they provide. 

You may want to meet with multiple attorneys before committing to one. Just one meeting can help you get a sense of each attorney’s style, law experience, and even educational background. Feel free to ask important questions about each of their certifications and specializations. 

Another important part of consultations is finding someone you feel comfortable working with. While you can research an attorney ahead of time, you can’t know for sure what it’ll be like to talk to them until you meet in person. 

  1. Ask for Referrals

Recommendations and referrals can help you narrow down your list of attorneys to consider. 

Recommendations from family and friends can help you find a trustworthy attorney, while personal experiences can tell you a lot about an attorney and his or her methods. 

You can also ask for referrals from other legal professionals you trust. They may be able to direct you to the right people they have worked with and found to be dependable and effective.

The internet also hosts plenty of reviews of different law offices, and you can refer to these before choosing one to learn about the staff, parking situation, and other considerations. 

A well-respected lawyer is a valuable ally when it’s time to create an estate plan that will serve you and your family’s best interests. 

  1. Understand Their Fees

Before committing to an estate planning attorney, you should have a clear conversation about the fees they plan to charge. 

Lawyers generally have a retainer agreement that describes how they charge for their services. Different lawyers may have different fee structures, ranging from a flat fee to regular payments. There are lawyers who offer free consultations, but some may charge for the initial consultation. 

Your attorney should be transparent and communicative on all fronts, especially regarding payment. Asking about fee structures can help you screen people out and find a lawyer with a positive attitude and great communication skills, which are two very important traits.

  1. Ask About the Law Office Team

Most law offices have a whole team working to keep the business organized, usually including multiple attorneys or legal professionals. 

When you hire an attorney, it’s a good idea to make sure the entire legal team is professional and capable. Many legal assistants have the qualifications and experience necessary to keep the office running smoothly. 

Before you choose an attorney, ask how they divide legal responsibilities. Assistants and paralegals do important work, but you’ll want to make sure that your attorney will be handling the most challenging aspects of your estate planning.

Plan Your Estate with a Trusted Estate Planning Attorney

Our law office offers expert guidance from an experienced Orange County attorney. We can answer questions related to probate, estate planning, and trust administration.
To schedule a consultation and learn more about our services, you may request an appointment by visiting our website or you may contact us at Parker Law Offices today!

When you’re meeting with your Orange County estate planning attorney, you’re definitely going to discuss creating or updating your will. While most people imagine a will to simply be a document that describes who takes ownership of certain assets, property, or cash, a will is so much more. In fact, there are actually multiple kinds of wills that have different uses and purposes. 

Your estate planning lawyer in Orange County will not only help you understand which wills are right for you, but can also make sure they are created and executed according to California state law.  Here’s what you need to know about the four main types of wills and their uses:

What Exactly is a Will?

Broadly put, a will is a legal document that outlines your wishes about the distribution of your property and the care of your minor children when you die. If you pass on without a will, those wishes may not be followed. Things can get messy as the distribution of your estate will be determined by a judge in probate court. Your friends and family may have to spend time and money working with an Orange County probate attorney to settle your affairs.

One of the key benefits of hiring an Orange County estate planning lawyer is that you can continue your life with peace of mind. When you pass, your loved ones won’t be burdened with the stress of trying to figure out the probate system.

Multiple Kinds of Will

Wills vary in how they work and how effective they are depending on their type and your unique needs. Your Orange County living trust lawyer can help you understand which ones are right for your situation. There are four main categories of wills: 

Simple Wills

A simple will is a relatively straight-forward document that doesn’t contain any tricky clauses or stipulations. Don’t let the name fool you, though. These wills can accomplish a great deal. You get full control over which of your assets go to different people. You can distribute everything to a single person, spread it out over multiple entities - even give some or all of it to charity!

In a simple will, you can also designate someone to be the executor of your estate. This person is tasked with making sure that your wishes set forth in the will are properly carried out. They can even make decisions that aren’t explicitly covered in your will, so you’ll want to name someone you trust. In some cases, you may decide to hire an Orange County probate attorney to advise your executor or even perform that position for you.

Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is a trust that is written inside of a will. Some people call it a will trust or trust under will. The idea is that parts or all of your estate become part of a trust. Unlike other trusts, this trust is not created until you die. You can even create multiple testamentary trusts within a single will.

A trust is essentially a way you can provide for a minor or disabled relative or delay someone from getting their inheritance until a certain point of time. For example, you might want assets to be held in the trust until the person graduates from college or turns a certain age.

Since the testamentary trust is inside of a will, it still goes through probate after your death. In fact, the people named take control of their inheritance, the person who is tasked with carrying out the trust must go to court to show they are properly handling your estate. There are usually, of course, significant associated costs with probate that can reduce the overall amount of the inheritance.

If you’re interested in creating a trust outside of your will, there are a number of options. Most of these trusts avoid probate or have other benefits. Check with your Orange County probate attorney to learn more.

Joint Will

If multiple people create a will to leave their assets to each other, it’s called a joint will. These are common among husbands and wives and acts as an agreement that if something happens to one spouse, the other inherits the whole estate. When the surviving spouse dies, the remainder of the estate goes to a third person or multiple people named by the couple together.

Unlike a mutual will, a joint will is a single document signed by both parties. A mutual will is made up of multiple wills that are signed by all parties. Joint wills were a little more prevalent in previous years because they were cheaper to create and execute. In modern times, they are a bit more complicated. A surviving spouse is unable to change the will after their spouse dies. 

That means the surviving spouse couldn’t leave anything in that will to a new spouse, step-child, or child from a new relationship. Mutual wills have similar drawbacks and can leave your family and friends in a sticky mess--and if the beneficiary named by the couple dies prematurely, the entire estate would be subject to probate.

Some people prefer to use what is called a mirror will. This kind of will acts as a joint will, but with some changes; multiple wills are created that are almost identical. These wills have different names as the person making the will, known as the testators. It’s common for both spouses to leave everything to the other person, but there is room for other decisions. A surviving spouse can then alter their will any way they see fit.

Living Wills

A living will is different from other wills as it is not actually a last will and testament dealing with your estate. A living will is meant to explain your wishes for end-of-life medical care. If you are in a situation where you can’t speak for yourself, this document controls how your care can proceed. You can decide if and how you can be resuscitated or what kind of assistance you’ll accept. Because living wills can get complicated, meet with your Orange County living will attorney to make sure it’s completed correctly.

You might also decide to create a medical power of attorney that names another person as your medical proxy. This proxy can make decisions on your behalf and deal with situations your living will doesn’t predict. Your Orange County living will lawyer can also help you put this in motion as well.

The Right Will for Your Needs

Knowing which kind of will is best for you is no easy decision. There are a variety of factors that make one better than another or make more sense for your situation. Fortunately, you are not on your own in planning for your future. An Orange County estate planning attorney can help you determine your best course of action. Moreover, your estate planning lawyer can help with the overarching needs of your estate beyond the will.Call or message us for your free consultation today and see how an estate planning attorney can help you.

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Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
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