Only 4 in 10 Americans adults have an estate plan, according to a Caring.com survey. As an attorney, you know that estate planning is essential, no matter your client’s personal or financial situation.
Estate planning and trust software can help you manage the entire process for your clients. With so many choices, finding the right software can be a challenge. Beyond Counsel presents some guidelines to help you decide.
Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan
It is a common misconception that only older adults need a will or living trust. It’s important for even young adults to plan their estate for a number of reasons. Young married couples and even some parents often neglect to make a plan, as well.
Doing so puts their families in jeopardy and it could lead to legal fights in probate court.
They fail to ask important questions:
- What will happen to my assets after I’m gone?
- Who will get control of my assets?
- Who will get custody of my children?
- What if my assets go to someone I don’t trust?
- What happens if I’m unable to make health care decisions for myself?
- Who will make decisions about my health care if I become incapacitated?
- What end-of-life care do I want?
If your clients don’t have an estate plan, the state will decide how their assets should be distributed. The state will also decide who will be named the guardian of their minor children. Estate planning should be part of the plan for all of your clients, regardless of their personal or financial situation.
The right estate planning software for lawyers makes the process more efficient.
What to Include in an Estate Plan
An estate plan includes a number of legal documents. These documents are designed to protect wealth, direct assets, determine guardianship of children, and designate who should make health care decisions.
There are five elements to include in any estate plan.
1. Wills and Trusts
Will and trusts are the two centerpieces of any estate plan.
A will specifies how assets should be distributed.
A trust sets up a fiduciary relationship between a beneficiary and a third party trustee. They are designed to provide legal protection of assets and ensure they are distributed as specified.
2. Beneficiary Designations
Many assets will pass to direct heirs without a will. Designating beneficiaries guarantees that your client’s assets are distributed the way he or she wants. If no beneficiary is assigned, the court will make the decision.
Note: It is always a good idea to have a contingent beneficiary in case the main one is deceased or unable to serve.
3. Guardianship Designations
If your client has minor children, it is imperative that someone is chosen to be a guardian in case anything happens. Without such designations, the court will decide who gets custody of minor children.
4. Durable Power of Attorney
Accidents, illness, and mental conditions can render someone unable to make decisions about financial matters. A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) assigns someone to act on your client’s behalf in the event they can no longer do so.
5. Healthcare Power of Attorney
Related to a POA is the Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPA). This document designates someone to make healthcare decisions in the event your client becomes incapacitated. The designee is often a spouse, parent or adult child, but your client could choose someone else he or she trusts.
Trust Software for Estate Planning Needs
Trust software for attorneys gives you powerful tools that make estate planning more efficient. Modern technology makes it easier than ever to draft legal documents, manage workflow, and improve communication.
In the end trust software will help you spend less time drafting documents and ensure client satisfaction.
How to Choose the Right Trust Software
If you are looking to add wills and trusts software for your practice, good luck. There are certainly many to choose from. To help you make the best decision, we offer a few guidelines.
3 Questions to Ask Regarding Trust Software
As you review different types of software or systems, there are three main things you need to determine.
1. What does the software include?
The best software should accomplish a few key things. It should be able to help you create accurate legal documents, automate your workflow process, and provide legal education.
2. How easy is the software to use?
Ease of use is important for you and your client. Cumbersome software that takes up even more of your time will only lead to frustration.
The language in the software should also be easy for your clients to understand as well. Nothing frustrates people more than complicated legalese. Beyond Counsel drafting software incorporates tools like Grammarly, which ensures that the language in every document is relatable and understandable.
You will spend less time explaining aspects of a will or beneficiary designations because everything is spelled out clearly.
3. Will the software keep you compliant?
Failure to understand or know the law can put your clients’ family and assets in jeopardy. It can also open up your firm to fines or lawsuits. Good trust software should include automatic updates and legal education, so you are always aware of changes in federal or state laws.
Choose 3-4 different software systems and set up demos. This way you can test out each system to see which suits you best.
Use demos to analyze the following:
- Ability to easily inventory client assets
- Ability to determine family liabilities
- Ease of outlining directives
- Ability to easily designate or change beneficiaries
- Automatic updates to reflect state and national laws
The software should give you the ability to draft:
- Wills and Revocable Trusts
- Including specific distributions, residuary, age requirements, fiduciaries, and miscellaneous provisions
- General Durable Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Wills
For more information, look at our previous blog on the best estate planning software.
The Best Software for Your Estate Needs
Trust software can transform the way to handle estate planning for your clients. In the end, you will save time and money. Choosing the right software is key, but once you have a new system, you will be able to tackle the estate needs of your clients with complete confidence.