In 1990, the proprietor of the Miami Dolphins, Joe Robbie, passed, leaving his estate worth more than $115 million to his family. Most of his wealth was tied to the sports franchise. Robbie was an attorney but underestimated the role of estate planning. Joe Robbie’s legacy did not last long because an internal dispute between his family, including 11 children, led to a $47 million tax accumulation. The family had to undersell the Miami Dolphins to pay the taxes.
Joe Robbie’s case may sound extreme, but it is a cautionary tale of poor estate planning. Many people view estate planning as a rich person’s affair. However, more people realize the role of estate planning, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the number of 18 to 35-year-olds with estate planning documents doubled during the pandemic.
Your family may greatly benefit from having an estate planning lawyer. The role of this type of lawyer will probably be more evident once you’ve passed and your family has to manage your resources. In this article, you will learn what estate planning lawyers are and what they do, the common reasons families do not engage them, and six ways one can help your family. Let’s dive in.
What Is an Estate Planning Lawyer?
Your estate is the sum of your life net worth, including property, land, rights, and assets. Estate planning is the management of how our property and wealth will be managed and distributed in case of incapacitation or death. Some people opt to plan their estate, for example, by drafting a will.
However, others chose to engage a lawyer who specialized in estate planning. They are legal professionals who manage, distribute, and represent an individual’s estate planning desires. Some people confuse estate planning lawyers with probate lawyers. The former helps to plan for fulfilling your wishes, while the latter helps you execute your will.
Common Reasons People Avoid Estate Planning
Poor estate planning failures are the fodder for tabloids and news outlets, especially when involving celebrities. However, such failures reveal common myths and why a significant population never has an estate plan or engages an estate planning lawyer.
1. “I Don’t Have Enough to Leave Behind”
A Caring.com survey showed that one in three don’t want to try estate planning because they don’t believe they have enough to leave behind for their family. You may feel the same. However, estate planning is not only for the rich.
2. “I Don’t Want to Think About Death”
Estate planning involves thinking about how things will play out after you pass away. Death is not easy to think about or plan for; thus, it is understandable that some people are afraid of estate planning. However, it’s best to plan ahead so your family has less to worry about when it does happen.
3. “It’s Too Complicated!”
Estate planning may seem daunting to many, and in some ways, it is. However, an estate planning lawyer can help ease the process because they are a legal professional. While estate planning may seem superstitious, daunting, or even unnecessary, this type of lawyer can help your family in multiple ways, as this article highlights. So, how can your family benefit from having a lawyer who specializes in estate planning?
1. Help Prevent Family Disputes
Family disputes over the estate are not isolated events. In 2018, the High Court registered a 47% increase in inheritance disputes. Families are places of love and friendship, yet families are split every year because they cannot agree on estate management. Even worse, families often fight over estate management while simultaneously mourning, which can put undue pressure on everyone.
Imagine you spent your whole life working hard and lifting your family sufficient wealth to see them through school or other life transitions. However, your family is left fighting over your estate until there is no family left at the end. In worse cases like Robbie’s imagine, they lose the estate altogether. While having an estate planning lawyer is no guarantee that everyone will be satisfied, you can alleviate plenty of opportunities for dispute.
2. Ensure Your Estate Follows Current Laws
Lawyers who specialize in estate planning are trained in all things estate management in terms of current laws, having received proper education and certification. They don’t have vested interests in the estate apart from what you invest in them. If you’re not a legal expert, you likely can’t keep up with new trends and policies.
Your lawyer will keep abreast with developing trends. For example, your estate may qualify for tax exemption. Similarly, they may adopt digital estate planning practices. Estate planning lawyers study law and local codes so you and your family don’t have to.
3. Develop an Estate Plan
One of the main roles of an estate planning lawyer is developing an estate plan. For example, they can help you draft a will. Wills can be contested in court; thus, there is no guarantee of a seamless estate transfer process. However, they can help guide your family on your wishes. Further, since they are legally binding, your family might find them easier to follow.
However, these lawyers can help you pick the estate plan that is most suitable for your family. For example, it may be suitable to have a trust. You may also desire to make regular donations to a charitable organization long after you are gone. Through a lawyer specializing in estate planning, you can guide your family to fulfill your desires.
4. Guide Your Family to Your Desires for an Estate
Joe Robbie was a business person with a love for sports who spent his life building a legacy. However, poor estate planning led to his family losing the family business. It could be unfortunate to have your legacy end with you because your family did not have guidance on managing the estate per your desires.
An estate planning lawyer will help you communicate your desires to your family through a legal process. For example, if you desire to keep donating to wildlife preservation, the lawyer will help you put your desires on paper. They will guide your family when they are unsure about your wants.
5. Act As Guardian
Do you have young children? Do you have a trusted adult who could make informed decisions on their behalf if you were incapacitated or were no more? An estate planning lawyer can act as a guardian. The attorney will have the power to decide on your children’s education and care until they reach legal adult age.
However, they do not make these decisions as they please. Instead, you should make your wishes known through writing. The lawyer would be legally bound to make decisions similar to what you would do.
6. Reduce Taxes
Our Joe Robbie case study is an extreme example of how taxes can infringe on your life’s work and decimate it. A lawyer specializing in estate planning can help your family have a healthy relationship with tax authorities. For example, they can help you avoid the probate process and associated taxes. Proper estate planning can help you avoid paying double taxes and sometimes get exempted from paying taxes, like through charity donations and trusts. While it’s possible to plan your estate without the help of a lawyer, their legal expertise will help you avoid costly mistakes that might transfer to your family.
You have now learned the multiple ways an estate planning lawyer can help your family. Remember that you need not be as rich as Joe Robbie to hire a lawyer specializing in estate planning. Further, an estate planning attorney can help you in the sometimes complex estate planning process. Do you have an estate plan to guide your family once you are gone? Reach out to Forefront Law and save your family’s potential for disputes.