How do you know when you need a lawyer? More specifically, how do you know when you need a Will and estate lawyer? The average person knows very little about Wills, trusts and estates because there is usually no reason for the average person to need to know much about them. As a result, however, the average person may not recognize the need for a Wills, trust and estate lawyer under a number of circumstances in which one is actually needed. To ensure that you know when a Will and estate lawyer is necessary, read through the following five scenarios that represent the most common situations in which one is needed. Although this is certainly not an exclusive list of scenarios when a Will and estate lawyer is needed, it covers the ones that you are most likely to encounter:
- Creating your Last Will and Testament – k., this one may seem obvious to you; however, it makes the top of the list because so many people think an attorney is not needed when creating and executing a Last Will and Testament. While it is true that there is no legal requirement that you consult with an attorney when you create your Will, attempting to proceed without one is generally a mistake because of the risk of errors and/or omissions in a “Do-It-Yourself” Will you find online.
- Revising your Will – another common mistake people make is forgetting to review and revise their Will on a regular basis and when certain life events call for it. As you go through the various phases of your life, changes need to be made to your estate plan to reflect where you are at now in your life. Until you reach retirement age you should sit down with your Will and estate lawyer every three to five years to review your plan. In addition, when things such as a marriage, divorce, or birth occur, you should immediately make plans to revise your estate plan to reflect that event and how it impacts your overall estate plan.
- Administering an estate – at some point in your life you may find yourself the Executor of an estate, or you may volunteer to be the Personal Representative of the estate of a family member or loved one who recently died. If so, you will be required to oversee the administration of the estate during the probate process. Most Executors/PRs retain the services of a Will and estate planning attorney to help during probate because of the numerous and varied duties an Executor/PR must undertake, many of which require at least a basic understanding of the laws that apply to Wills, trusts, and estates.
- Contesting a Will – if you recently lost a loved one, and you believe that the Last Will and Testament that was submitted to the court for the purpose of probating the estate is invalid for one of several legal reasons, you may be entitled to contest the Will. Doing so, however, can be complicated and emotionally exhausting which is why it is best to have a Will and estate planning attorney assist you.
- Petitioning for guardianship – there may come a time when you realize a parent (or other elderly loved one) needs a guardian, either because he/she cannot safely make day to day decisions or because he/she is no longer capable of manage finances – or both. Because guardianship is considered the most restrictive option, courts hold a petitioner to a high standard when considering a petition for guardianship. Given that your parent’s safety and security may ultimately be at stake, it only makes sense to have an experienced estate planning attorney help you with your petition for guardianship.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding when a Will and estate lawyer is needed, contact the experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.