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Estate Planning with LegalZoom

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What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning means deciding what will happen to your stuff—like your house, money, and belongings—after you die. It’s also about planning what should happen if you get too sick to decide. This planning helps make sure your wishes are followed, and it can make things easier and cheaper for your family when you’re not around.

Why is Estate Planning Important?

Without an estate plan, the courts will decide how to split up your assets, which can be a long and expensive process for your family. Proper estate planning lets you choose who gets your assets, look after any children, and even make medical decisions if you can’t. It gives you control and can relieve your family’s stress in tough times.

What Happens if You Don’t Have an Estate Plan?

If you don’t have an estate plan, the government decides how to handle everything you own. This process, called probate, can be slow and costly. Without clear instructions, there can be unnecessary fights among your family members, and important things you care about might not be taken care of as you would have wished.

Components of a Typical Estate Plan

Here are the parts most people include in their estate plan:
  • Will: This document tells everyone what should happen to your property and who will ensure your plans are carried out. It can also let you name who should care for your kids if they’re still young.
  • Trust: This is like a special box where you can keep your assets to protect them and control how they’re handed out. Trusts can also help skip the probate process, saving time and money.
  • Power of Attorney: This lets someone else make financial decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
  • Living Will: This enables you to write down your medical wishes in case you’re too sick to speak for yourself later.

What should I include in my estate plan besides documents?

Besides legal documents, consider including a list of all your accounts (like bank accounts, investment accounts, and insurance policies) and important contacts (like your lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent). This will help your family know what you have and who to contact when they need to manage your affairs after you’re gone.

LegalZoom for Estate Planning: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affordable: LegalZoom offers cheaper options than seeing a lawyer in person. You can start planning your estate for a few hundred dollars.
  • Convenient: You can set up everything online without going anywhere or meeting a lawyer.
  • Simple: LegalZoom makes it easy by guiding you through each step to create your estate plan.

Cons

  • Not for Complex Needs: If you have many assets or complicated family situations, LegalZoom might not cover all your needs.
  • Less Personal Advice: Unlike a lawyer who can offer tailored advice, LegalZoom offers more general help. This might only work for some.
  • Generic: The forms are standard and may not fit unique personal or state-specific needs, which could lead to problems later.

Features of LegalZoom’s Estate Planning Services

LegalZoom helps you make important documents like wills and trusts. They offer a review service where a lawyer checks your documents for an extra fee. They also have support staff to answer any questions and provide resources to help you understand more about estate planning.

Is LegalZoom Right for You?

LegalZoom is suitable if your estate planning needs are simple and you want something affordable and simple. It’s easy to use and can be done from home. But if you have a lot of assets or need specific advice, you might need more than what LegalZoom offers. Consider what you need and talk to a lawyer if your situation is more complex. Start with Legal Zoom LegalZoom makes estate planning more accessible for many people. It’s worth considering if you’re starting to think about how to handle your assets after you’re gone. However, evaluate carefully if it fits your specific circumstances and needs.

FAQs About Estate Planning

  • What happens if I only have a will and not a trust?

    If you have only a will, all your assets listed in the will go through probate, the court process that checks and approves the will. Probate can take time and money; your details will become public records. On the other hand, a trust allows your assets to bypass probate, saving time and keeping things private.

  • What if I have a family member with special needs?

    If you have a family member with special needs, it’s crucial to consider setting up a special needs trust as part of your estate plan. This type of trust ensures that the family member can receive financial support without losing eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid or Social Security. A specialized attorney can help set this up correctly.

  • Does LegalZoom provide help with understanding state-specific laws?

    Yes, LegalZoom offers some resources to help you understand the basics of your state’s laws. However, their general information might not cover every specific situation. If your estate planning needs are complex or you need detailed information about particular state laws, consulting with a local attorney might be a good idea.

  • What if I have assets in different states or countries?

    LegalZoom can handle assets in different states, but their standard services are more suited for straightforward situations. Suppose you have significant assets outside your home state or in other countries. In that case, it’s wise to seek advice from an attorney specializing in multi-state or international estate planning to address all legal aspects properly.

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