Your Resource for Estate Planning Solutions
Why Make an Estate Plan?
Nobody wants to plan for their own death or disability, but it is critically important to do so. There are assets that will pass automatically, with or without the help of an estate planning lawyer- for example, if you and your spouse jointly own a home, other real property or a bank account, those assets will pass automatically to the surviving spouse, as will life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts if you have named a beneficiary.
Everything else, however, will require a process, whether you plan for it or not. If you die without a will, state laws will decide how your assets are distributed among your family, and in some cases who will be the legal guardians for your minor children. That means your surviving spouse and family will most likely have to hire a lawyer, and possibly other professionals, and go through the probate court process to determine who gets what and to authorize the distribution. This can be simple in some circumstances, but can also get messy fast, especially if you have a "non-traditional" family.
If you die without a will, it is estimated that the cost of the probate process can eat up 3% to 8% of the assets available leave to your loved ones. Also, if your assets at your death, which include everything that passes automatically like your home or other jointly owned real property, as well as life insurance proceeds, are $1 million or more, your estate will have to pay estate tax. An estate worth just over $1 million will have an estate tax burden of approximately $36,000.00. This can leave your surviving spouse or other family member facing difficult decisions about selling estate assets just to pay the taxes. Also, if you leave behind minor children and do not have some kind of trust set up for their benefit, their legal guardians will be left with the additional burden of creating a vehicle to hold their assets, and without guidance from you about how to make decisions for your children.
What Goals Can You Achieve With an Estate Plan?
What you do with your estate planning will depend of course on your family's needs and your wishes. There are some common things, though, that most people end up using an estate plan to help with, each of which can be taken care of with a legal document or combination of legal documents that make your wishes a reality:
What is Stopping You From Making Your Estate Plan?
If you don't have a plan in place, you are not alone. More than half of American adults do not have a will, let alone a comprehensive plan. But they are putting their families at risk- why?
It Does Not Seem Important Right Now: Maybe you are young and healthy and it does not seem urgent. We get that, but remember that this is a great time to get this taken care of, while you are not facing a crisis. When you think about this question, make sure you understand what it would look like it you or your spouse were to pass without a will.
You're Not Rich: Maybe you feel like this is something only rich people need to worry about, and you are not rich. But you still have things, and a family, and ideas about how you would like things to be distributed. And if you have young children, no matter how much money you have or don't have, you need a plan for them. Finally, the Massachusetts estate tax very much impacts middle class families, and you may well be richer than you think.
Cost: There are so many more immediate things to do with your money than plan for the future. But if going through probate if you die without a will can cost from 3% to 8% of the value of your assets, and the estate tax liability on an estate worth just over $1 million is $36,000, you can quickly begin to see that the investment in getting a plan in place is well worth it.
You're Too Busy: This is also common, and totally understandable. The good news is once you take the first step to hire a lawyer to make your plan, most of the work is out of your hands. Learn how it works- it may be simpler than you think.
You Don't Know Who to Trust: Hiring an estate planning lawyer is, quite literally, inviting someone into your family, if only for a short while. It is not surprising that it may feel overwhelming to find someone to help you with this very personal matter. But if you trust us only on one thing, trust us on this: you need to find someone and get started.
There are ways to can vet your choice of a lawyer. For example, Avvo.com has a rating system that is based on objective criteria, and also hosts client reviews. Sites like Avvo and Google reviews do not allow attorneys to filter the reviews that are posted, so if you find enough reviews you can get a pretty good idea about the kind of experiences others have had with the lawyer. But you need to find someone, make a decision, and get started so that you can put this behind you knowing that you and your family are protected.
Why Trust slnlaw With Your Estate Plan?
We understand how personal this decision is. We also understand that individuals and families all have unique needs and wishes- we are not here to judge those wishes, but simply to help make sure they come to pass.
Our lead estate planning lawyer, Jenna Ordway, has been helping families prepare their estate plans since 2013. In addition to her law degree, Jenna has a masters degree (LLM) in taxation, and has written a book "The Road to Peace of Mind- What You Need to Know About Estate Planning") to help you better understand the issues and your options as you consider your estate plan.
Our founder and owner, Emily Smith-Lee, has been practicing law for 22 years, and has operated her practice as a local small business for the past ten years. She has been named on the Massachusetts Super Lawyers List every year since 2013, and was named a 2018 Lawyer of the Year by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Emily is committed to the community, and has been a local elected official in Sharon for nine years, eight as a School Committee member and currently as a member of the Board of Selectmen.
Ready to Get Started?
Our estate planning attorneys are ready to help. We have a simple process for getting you from wherever you are now to executed and final documents. It starts with an initial consultation, which is absolutely free. You can use the button below to schedule your consultation, or simply give us a call at 781-784-2322, or fill out our web form.
"Slnlaw did a fantastic job.... Their attorneys were very friendly and knowledgeable, and I never felt pressured to purchase any service. I would definitely recommend them!" Michael S.
"It was a pleasure working with with Emily Smith-Lee... She willingly shares her expertise and always listens to her clients' concerns. Emily's caring demeanor puts people at ease immediately. The outcome of my experience was quite favorable. I would highly recommend them." Camille B.
"SLN Law was prompt, courteous and very professional. Emily responded quickly to my request, was very knowledgeable on the topic I needed help with and provided reasonable, sound advice. I would definitely recommend this law firm to others and would use them again, if needed." E.C.
"From my first conversation with Emily, I knew I had picked the right law firm to handle my Estate Plan after having procrastinated for some time before I decided it was time to get my estate in order. Previously, I spoke with a couple other lawyers and I did not feel comfortable with their approach prior to calling Emily. Jenna did an excellent job in assessing what I wanted to accomplish and completed my will, trust and other documents in a very short time. I am so happy I made the right choice in choosing slnlaw as my estate team.." Evelyn W.
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Want to Read More?
Read more about these estate planning topics on the slnlaw blog: