Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Divorce and Estate Planning

All individuals who happen to be going through divorce should get an estate planning attorney to prepare for the future by helping them to plan and draft some basic estate planning documents, usually at or near the end of the divorce process. In fact, it is best to see an estate planning attorney before the divorce judgment becomes final.

For an excellent primer on this issue, please read the following series of articles from Leanna Hamill, a Massachusetts estate planning and elder law attorney from Hingham, and author of the Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog:

Estate Planning and Divorce - Part 1
Estate Planning and Divorce - Part 2: Post Divorce, and
Estate Planning and Divorce - Tips on Trusts for the Family Law Attorney.

Every individual's situation is different, but all people going through a divorce will have lots of reasons to hire an estate planning attorney to do an estate planning do-over, or to make a first-time visit if they have yet to do any estate planning. And more generally, most individuals with any kind of family law issues or disputes, whether in divorce or not, would be wise to get a good estate planning attorney, one who concentrates either primarily or exclusively in that area, to go over their particular situations, and provide the appropriate menu of options available to them. Fee arrangements for estate planning are more like those of criminal law than those of family law, in that flat-fee, rather than hourly billing, is the norm.

I am often asked by my clients if I can prepare wills, trusts, health care proxies, and other estate planning documents for them. As a licensed Massachusetts attorney, I can in fact do all of these things, and I have taken courses both in law school and outside of law school on estate planning and elder law, but I prefer not to take on even the most basic of such cases. Estate planning is a distinct area of practice, as are my primary areas of practice which are both in the litigation arena - divorce and family law, and criminal law. I choose, as do most attorneys, to concentrate in a few areas of the law so that I can do the best job possible. Concentrating or specializing in one or more areas of practice leads to more effectiveness and efficiency in service as it leads to greater expertise in those areas.

Many other areas of the law often intersect with family law, and that is one of the reasons I like family law. However, I often find it best, or even necessary, to refer cases or issues in other fields to practitioners in those separate fields. Sometimes, for example, I find a need to refer clients directly to attorneys who concentrate in matters of trusts and estates, in order to handle such matters as complicated trusts, education trusts, special needs trusts, or other matters. In many other cases, clients already have other attorneys for estate planning and I have found it a pleasure to work with them on behalf of the client's various needs when they are related in some way.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

1 comment:

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