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What does an Estate Planning Attorney do?

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  • Written By: M. Lupica
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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An estate planning attorney may be responsible for a lot of duties in the preparation and administration of a person’s estate. The most commonly cited example of what an estate planning attorney does for clients is the drafting of wills. In planning the disposition of the client’s property through a will, the attorney will typically also advise the client in regard to the tax effects of the disposition. An estate planning attorney may also set up any trusts that are appropriate for the client’s purposes. Last, after the client’s death, there are often times that an attorney is appointed as an executor for administration of the client’s estate.

Drafting a will is a much more complicated process than one would expect. There are special rules, depending on the jurisdiction in which it is executed, for the appropriate language to include as well as the actual execution of the will. Someone who wants to execute a will to ensure his or her possessions are disposed in the manner he or she wants after death will typically employ an estate planning attorney to make sure proper procedure is followed. Otherwise, upon death, the property may not be distributed according to his or her wishes.

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Again, depending on the jurisdiction, there could be very particular rules as to the tax implications of various types of disposition of property. Some jurisdictions have hefty estate taxes where a portion of every estate must go to the government. In some places that have these rules, an estate planning attorney can effect disposition of a client’s property in a manner that reduces the impact of such taxes.

Sometimes, a client’s situation will dictate that he or she have a testamentary trust set up for one or more heirs. For example, if a person wants to ensure his or her grandchildren are set up with a college fund, that person may set up a testamentary trust upon death with proceeds from the estate. The estate planning attorney may set this trust up so that upon each grandchild’s graduation from high school, the funds contained in the trust may be applied to the grandchild's college tuition.

Eventually, upon the death of the client, he or she will need an executor to take care of the administration of the estate. Generally, the executor is named in the will and may be the estate planning attorney. The executor’s duties include collecting the deceased’s assets, determining and paying off any claims, and distributing the balance of the estate to its beneficiaries.

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