Why go to a lawyer for estate planning?
There are certain people who advertise estate planning services, who claim to do estate planning and some who, even though they don’t openly advertise estate planning, do what amounts to estate planning, even though they are not lawyers. If someone is giving you advice on your estate plan, they’re doing estate planning. Examples may include your stockbroker, your investment counselor, your accountant, or someone in the investment department of your bank.
Now, I’m not saying that an accountant might not have some valid input regarding your estate plan; accountants generally know about taxes and may be able to point something out regarding taxes. Likewise, someone at the bank may point out that you can name a beneficiary on account so that account will pass outside of probate at your death. That’s a perfectly valid and useful point. However, where the line gets crossed sometimes is when the accountant then tells you that “you should do this because it will avoid taxes” or the person at the bank says “you should do this because you want to avoid probate”. Well, maybe you should but maybe you shouldn’t. It’s possible that the taxes you will be avoiding are non existent or minimal at best; and doing something to avoid taxes will wind up with an unwanted result, such as depriving someone who you want to get something not getting it. Likewise, while you might want to avoid probate, naming a person as beneficiary might result in their getting the property outright, and you would really rather they get it in trust.
A lot of the people who may be giving you estate planning advice are doing so from their own perspective; that of an accountant, an investment counselor, a bank employee. All of which are valid perspectives but they don’t take into consideration other perspectives. And, to be honest, depending on their position, their perspective might be colored by what they have to sell; if an investment counselor does not sell a particular type of product, that investment counselor is unlikely to tell you to buy a product that they don’t sell.
A lawyer is selling his advice; a lawyer is not selling real estate, a type of investment, or a particular product. A lawyer is usually going to be charging for his time and he makes money off of selling his time. A lawyers’ advice, and how much money he makes, should not be colored by what you wind up buying.
Additionally, a good lawyer will look at a problem from more than one perspective; what the law is, what the tax implications should be, what the impact on family harmony will be. A lawyer should take into consideration what all of the objectives of the client are; not just tax questions or what will give the highest rate of return.
This is why you need to talk to lawyer for your estate planning; because a lawyer will put your interest above the lawyer own interest; and a lawyer is in the best position to evaluate what is best for you.