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Around the Web: Estate Planning Essentials for 20- and 30-Somethings

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It’s never too early to start thinking about your estate plan. When you’re in your 30s or even in your 20s, it can be wise to start planning for your future. After all, life is unpredictable and anything can happen at any time. It’s better to be prepared. This article explains several estate planning essentials every young adult should consider.

  1. Student Loans – While federal student loans discharge in the event of your death, if you took out a private loan or your parents co-signed with you, they could be on the hook for the loan in the event of your passing. If this is the case, you should consider buying insurance in the amount necessary to account for your debts. This should include your mortgage or any other outstanding loans you may have.
  2. Power of Attorney – Who will make decisions for you if you are medically or physically unable to? Assigning power of attorney can mitigate any unnecessary, additional stress for your loved ones during what would be an already difficult time. Look online for a template to set up a POA. 
  3. Last Will and Testament – Life is unpredictable. If you passed away today, what would happen to your things? Without a will, a judge will decide that. Find an attorney who specializes in estate planning to help you create a solid last will and testament and name an executor. 
  4. Retirement Accounts and Beneficiaries – while you may not have as many assets as older people quite yet, it’s important to name a beneficiary and keep these documents updated whenever you make a big life change. This includes getting married or divorced. 
  5. Digital Assets – from cryptocurrency to social media accounts, list all of your digital assets and login information in a document with your estate attorney to help protect and preserve your accounts after your passing.
  6. Child Guardianship – It’s tough to think about, but critical to address. Help mitigate any additional pain or confusion by appointing a guardian in advance. If this isn’t done, the decision will be left up to a judge. 
  7. Don’t forget about pets – Who will take care of your beloved pet when you pass away? Prevent more heartache by deciding this now. You can also create a pet trust to cover food costs and veterinary care.

How to Choose an Estate Planning Law Attorney

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In the United States, only 33% of people have a will or living trust. Many people that do not have a will or living trust say that they don’t have enough assets to leave behind. Even with very few assets, estate planning is an essential part of end-of-life planning.

If you want help with estate planning but don’t know where to start, finding an attorney that specializes in estate planning law can help! Because you are putting a lot of trust in their hands, you must find a reliable lawyer to work with.

Do you want to learn more about choosing an estate planning attorney that meets your needs? Keep reading this guide for the top factors you should consider when choosing an estate attorney.

How Long Has the Attorney Been Practicing?

Learning how long the attorney has been practicing is the first thing you must learn before hiring an attorney as your estate planner.

Make sure your attorney has several years of experience practicing in the areas of probate, wills and trusts, and estate planning law. This way, they will have the experience necessary to help you with your case and will be up-to-date on the current laws and regulations surrounding estate planning law.

Plus, attorneys that have been practicing for longer and have a great local reputation will be better equipped to handle your specific, unique needs for estate planning.

What Percent of the Practice Is Devoted to Estate Planning?

Next, you should ask your attorney how much of their practice is devoted to estate planning. There are many different types of specialization that an attorney can choose. Each of these specializations deals with different laws and requires different knowledge.

Because of this, you should find an attorney that specializes in estate planning. Make sure their primary focus is on estate planning and trust law in your state.

This way, you can feel confident in the legal advice that they give you and you can be sure that your estate planning will be done correctly. You will also be able to get help with any other end-of-life planning services, including durable power of attorney.

Is the Attorney Friendly and Easy to Talk To?

Because you will be spending so much time with your estate planning attorney, you should find an attorney that is friendly and easy to talk to. This way, you will be comfortable discussing any of your questions or concerns about your estate planning needs.

Plus, estate planning requires a lot of personal information. You should make sure your lawyer puts you at ease and that you feel comfortable discussing your personal information with them.

Often, attorneys will offer a free consultation for potential clients. You can use this as an opportunity to meet with your attorney and see if your personalities match well together.

How Much Will You Pay For Your Estate Plan?

Legal fees can be quite expensive, which is one reason why many people have not started estate planning yet. To make sure you find a reliable estate planning lawyer that fits your budget, you should learn how much your estate plan is going to cost.

An estate plan can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Some lawyers will charge a flat rate for estate planning services while others will charge their clients an hourly fee.

If your lawyer provides you with a pricing estimate, make sure you ask for a written fee agreement. This way, you will know exactly what services are included in the price of your estate planning services.

Do They Require a Retainer?

Not only do you need to learn more about the legal fees your lawyer will charge for your estate plan, but you should also learn whether or not they require a retainer.

A legal retainer is a type of compensation that some lawyers will use as a way for clients to reserve their employment for the future. If your lawyer requires a retainer for their services, you may end up paying more for your estate plan.

If you schedule a consultation with your attorney, make sure you ask them if they require a retainer.

Is the Attorney Understandable and Good at Communicating?

Finding an estate attorney that is easy to understand and good at communicating is essential, especially when it comes to end-of-life planning. Estate law can be quite confusing for the average person. If your lawyer uses too much legal jargon, you may not be fully aware of what they are doing to help you.

Because of this, you need to find a lawyer that will take the time to clearly explain each aspect of estate planning to you!

Your attorney should also be willing to answer any questions that you have without making you feel embarrassed.

Is the Attorney Interested and Knowledgeable About Your Situation?

Finally, you need to find an estate planning attorney that is knowledgeable and interested in your situation. Every person will have different needs when it comes to estate planning. Because of this, you need to find an attorney that is knowledgeable about all the different areas of estate plan law.

You should also be sure that they are interested in helping you. If your attorney truly cares about your situation, they will provide you with better services. For example, if you were divorced, you may want your lawyer to help you with estate planning for 2nd marriages and planning for and protecting your children.

Make sure your lawyer cares enough about your estate planning needs that they get to know more about you and your unique situation.

Need Help With Estate Planning Law?

When you are looking for an estate planner, you must find one with the knowledge and experience to help you with your unique situation. Following these tips can help you find a reliable attorney to help you make an estate plan.

If you need help understanding estate planning law, Rhodes Law Firm can help! We specialize in estate planning and can help you protect your loved ones and your assets after you pass away.

Contact us today to learn more about our estate planning services and to get a free consultation.

Around The Web: Wills aren’t just for the elderly

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One common misconception surrounding estate planning is that it’s something to worry about once you get older. This could not be further from the truth. It’s never too early to set up your will, especially if you have any pets, children, or even just a bank account. This article makes some great points regarding the importance of creating a will or estate plan sooner rather than later. 

So, what happens if you die without creating a will? State authorities will assume control of your assets and dependents and distribute them in accordance with your state’s laws. Do you share a home with a partner? Without a will, your partner most likely has no legal right to remain in the home after you pass away. It’s vital to express your wishes in a will or estate plan to ensure your loved ones are taken care of after your passing. 

Even if you are single, having a will in place can protect your assets and accounts. Here are just a few examples:

  • Pets – you can ensure your pets go to a loved one or someone you trust to care for them.
  • Financial Accounts – with a will, you can ensure your accounts are transferred to the intended recipient
  • Heirlooms and valuables – Pass on your most treasured possessions to someone special

If you’re ready to set up a will or discuss an estate plan, contact Rhodes Law Firm today! We can help give you peace of mind and guide you through the process.

Estate Planning: How Much Should You Pay For Your Estate Plan?

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estate planning

Your will is the cornerstone of your estate planning. Without it, your entire estate can become an afterthought to the courts.

Because you must follow the law with this planning, your will is often created first. It can also serve as a template for powers-of-attorney and any other required documents.

What comes after this is a discussion of proper estate planning. Your will is the start, with vetting by attorneys and perhaps drafting a living will or healthcare directive being the next level.

But what about the other half of estate planning? How much should you pay for your estate plan?

The answer is different for everyone, but it depends on how extensive your estate planning needs are. Keep reading to learn more about estate planning can prepare you for the future.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging someone’s affairs during their life if that person becomes incapacitated after death. These plans may eliminate the guessing and maximize the value of an estate by reducing the taxes and other expenses assigned to the estate after someone’s death.

The goal of an estate plan can vary. Estate plans exist to grant the wishes and meet the needs of the property owner. Estate planning includes:

  • Wills
  • Advanced Healthcare Directive
  • Probate
  • Trusts
  • Power of Attorney

With an estate plan, you will have control over who will inherit your assets rather than the government. Instead of letting the state’s default laws pick your heirs, estate planning enables you to choose who will get your assets upon your passing.

Why Can Estate Planning Can Be Worth The Investment

Most individuals who have property or a family should create an estate plan. Depending on the size of your estate and other variables, you might or might not need an estate plan.

Estate plans are helpful if you want your partner to manage your finances and make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and you want to leave your assets to them. You must have an estate plan to guarantee that your assets will pass to your partner upon your death and to formally designate your partner as your agent in your financial and medical power of attorney.

Be Proactive to Find an Estate Planner

You need to be prepared for the inevitability of mortality. That is why you need to be proactive about connecting with an estate planner and securing your assets for the future.

By discussing costs upfront, you can have an open conversation about fees and consultation costs. You need to attend your first educational meeting to talk about different aspects of an estate plan.

Once you choose an attorney, you need to put your deal in writing. By starting with a comprehensive contract, you will be able to keep the firm accountable as you entrust them with your finances and assets. It is necessary to research different firms to select the correct firm to manage your estate.

How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

The cost of estate planning can greatly vary. When budgeting for your estate planning it’s critical to understand who will be working on your estate plan and what kind of plan you require. Estate planning fees are usually broken out into hourly rates, flat fees, or contingency fees.

Hourly Rate

Your lawyer will probably charge you an hourly rate if they are unable to determine a fixed price. Any time spent making your estate plan will be charged at an hourly rate.

If your lawyer charges by the hour, they may also need a retainer upfront. This retainer pays for onboarding costs and contributes to your bottom line. If your estate planner will take more time or work, they may opt for an hourly fee.

Flat Fee

Your lawyer may charge a flat fee to cover the cost of their estate planning services and experience. Usually, this fee includes the creation of a will or a power of attorney.

If your attorney requests a fixed fee, you need to inquire what is covered in that arrangement. Your fixed fees may need to be paid in full before the attorney starts working.

Contingency Fee

In circumstances where you will get financial compensation, a contingency fee is used. For instance, you pay your lawyer a percentage when you obtain once a lawsuit is finalized.

Because payment would be circumstantial, lawyers rarely offer contingency fees as an option for estate plans. A probate lawyer could charge you this fee if they are going to settle an estate.

Lingering Fees

Before you invest in an estate plan, you need to inquire about different fees. These fees are variables that can impact the overall cost of your estate plan. You need to be proactive in scheduling an upfront consultation.

Use A Qualified Estate Planning Professional

An estate plan’s ability to reduce the costs, delays, and invasion of privacy associated with the probate procedure is one of its primary benefits. Estates allow you to provide for your family even after you pass. Many people find great comfort in the ability to care for their loved ones. This makes it essential to minimize the expenses and taxes and to ease the burden of loss on your family.

Interested in finalizing an estate plan for you and your family? Contact our team at the Rhodes Law Firm to get started on estate planning and securing your financial future.

Around The Web: Protect Your Disabled Heir’s Benefits

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If you have an estate plan or are in the process of creating one, it may be wise to ensure its language doesn’t unintentionally exclude an heir with disabilities. If you have a loved one with a disability, default probate laws may disqualify your disabled beneficiary from receiving full government benefits (Supplemental Security Income). Essentially, a direct inheritance would be considered an available resource and would reduce benefits and insurance amounts until these funds are fully used. This article offers insight on how to protect your disabled heir’s benefits.

Ensuring your funds are held in a Special Needs Trust (SNT) can help prevent any issues such as this from arising after your death. These trusts are just one of the various estate plan solutions for beneficiaries with disabilities. Other options include an ABLE account, a pooled trust, or purchasing exempt resources for your beneficiary. 

If you would like to review your estate plan options and ensure all of your heirs will be well taken care of, contact Rhodes Law Firm today. Our team can discuss the various strategies available and make sure your estate plan will stand the test of time. 

Probate: The Legal Process of Determining Inheritance

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probateLosing a loved one is never easy, and trying to cope with that loss while deciding what happens to their belongings can be extremely painful.

Memories come flooding in, emotions run high, and invariably drama can ensue. Family members whom you haven’t seen in years (or ever in some instances) are fighting over who gets to keep what.

When the dispute becomes too intense with no clear resolution being reached from either side, the courts can step in and decide how a deceased person’s assets are divided.

This is called probate.

Whether you’ve been named the executor of a will, want a small trinket as a special reminder, or have yet to draft your own will, knowing what probate is and how it works can help you navigate this emotional time.

Keep reading to learn more about the probate process, how it works, and how you can avoid probate should you desire.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process where a probate court determines the validity and authenticity of a deceased person’s will. Whether the will is valid or not, or if there is no will, the probate court will also determine inheritors and prioritize paying off outstanding debts.

Wills are validated to ensure legitimacy. It’s not uncommon, especially with large estates, for multiple wills to start appearing after death. Most of the time the deceased drafted several wills over their lifetime and someone found an older draft.

The court will determine which of the wills is valid. The probate court has the final ruling on which will is valid and who the inheritors are.

How Does Probate Work?

Probate does not begin automatically when someone dies. If there is a will present then the will must be filed at the courts, if no will is present then paperwork must still be filed with the court.

With a Will

Typically the executor of the will file the document with the probate court. However, anyone in possession of a will may file it in court when that person dies.

After validation, the court will officially appoint the executor. The executor then has the legal powers to act on behalf of the deceased.

The executor’s responsibilities however are not so straightforward. The executor is responsible for distributing a deceased person’s assets to their heirs, and sometimes that means finding an heir or heirs.

Typically the executor is a family member so most executors are able to easily contact all heirs. However, there are times when there has been a falling out with a family member or a long-lost relative is listed no one has ever heard of.

In these cases, it’s important to note the executor cannot decide to who the assets go, but instead must execute the will as written by the deceased.

Without a Will

When no will is present an administrator is appointed over the estate rather than an executor. This also occurs when a will is deemed invalid and there is not another will to file.

Once the court has appointed an administrator the administrator executes similar duties to an executor. They are responsible for locating heirs and distributing the assets.

Again though the administrator does not necessarily determine who gets what The probate court will determine based on the hierarchy of heirs who gets what of the deceased assets.

If no heirs can be located and none come forward the state overseeing the estate can claim the assets for the state itself. However, there is a timeframe that must pass before that can happen.

Jointly Owned Property

Assets that are jointly owned can sometimes be tricky. Especially when one owner is still living while the other is deceased. The probate court in these instances uses a hierarchy of heirs.

At the top of the hierarchy is typically the surviving spouse. After that are any children the deceased may have had. Past that the courts will decide how the assets are distributed.

It is worth noting, however, that without a will friends of the deceased are not considered a part of the hierarchy of heirs.

Joint accounts are considered assets and are left to the surviving owner. In these instances the owner is a surviving spouse, however, any joint account with rights of survivorship will be distributed to the surviving owner. Regardless of the relationship with the deceased.

This also applied to co-owned property as well.

Avoiding Probate

There are ways to avoid entering into probate. You may want to avoid probate in cases where you would like specific assets to go to specific heirs without writing a will.

It’s not a secret drama that unfolds when wills are discussed and brought up. Feelings can be hurt, and respect and loyalty can be turned into feelings of betrayal and rudeness.

Transfer Ownership Prior to Death

Rather than waiting until being deceased for an heir to take possession of an asset, you could transfer the ownership to the heir while alive.

This can be beneficial in certain situations where a person may be married more than once in their lifetime. Or possibly chooses not to marry the person they now share a home with (roommate, friend, significant other).

Living Trust

A living trust or trust fund holds onto the asset of the deceased. Trusts have designated beneficiaries and can specify how to distribute the assets.

When assets are placed in a Trust Fund the deceased is also able to dictate certain criteria for the heirs to meet prior to receiving their inheritance. This can include a child or relative attending college, using funds only to pay for a home, or reconnecting with the family.

Secure Your Heir’s Inheritance

Death is difficult to process. The loss leaves an ache that never really goes away. Many people handle grief differently and can react in extreme ways. Often this appears in the form of laying claim to a passed relative’s assets and can become aggressive.

To avoid these things and to help your loved ones grieve easier and remember the happier times you should understand the probate process. Whether in a will or without one, knowing how your assets will be divided can go a long way in helping your family through a difficult time.

Contact our team of experts today to help you with all your estate needs.

Around the Web: “Gray Divorce” and What You Need to Know

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Splitting up is never easy, no matter your age. However, more and more, elderly couples are deciding to go their separate ways. Divorcing after so many years together may complicate an already complicated matter. According to this Kiplinger article, “gray divorce” is on the rise and there are a few things to keep in mind if this is something you are going through. 

  1. Divide and conquer your financial advisors and attorneys. It may be best for one spouse to keep the existing planner and attorney and for the other to get new providers. 
  2. Consolidate your nest egg to one financial institution so it is easier to keep track. 
  3. Negotiate ahead of time how payments will be split for any upcoming nuptials for your children. 
  4. Update your beneficiaries to reflect your separation. You may want your inheritance to go to an adult child or sibling instead of your former spouse.
  5. Consider a prenup if you get remarried. This will serve as an added layer of protection for your adult children and grandchildren. Also take this time to update your power of attorney to your new spouse.

It pays to plan ahead. If you’re going through a divorce in your older age, we can help you navigate all of the important considerations and decisions. Give Rhodes Law Firm a call today. 

Around the Web: Do you have a Power of Attorney?

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Do you have a plan in place should you become severely ill or incapacitated? It may be grim to think about, but it is vitally important to have a power of attorney in place to make decisions on your behalf. This article explains just how important it is to have someone selected to make your financial and health decisions. A power of attorney would pay your bills, handle your insurance claims, or even file your taxes. 

Whether you are young, old, single or married, you should have a power of attorney in place. Without one, your loved ones will likely have to petition the court to step in on your behalf – a time-consuming and pricey process. This also opens up the possibility of loved ones fighting over who should be your guardian. You can save all of this unnecessary stress and frustration by appointing someone now.

An experienced and well-versed estate attorney can help you draft your power of attorney that meets your specific state’s requirements. Whenever you are ready to get a plan in place, contact Rhodes Law Firm. Our team of skilled attorneys are here for you.

Around the Web: You May Need More Than a Will for your Estate

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Everyone’s estate planning process looks different. A young couple just starting out and a senior with significant assets will need to approach their estate decisions much differently. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, this article suggests a few top strategies for those making estate plans. 

  1. Revocable trusts – a revocable trust bypasses probate, allowing your property to transfer immediately. This saves your loved ones and beneficiaries much time and stress. It also keeps your estate and your wishes confidential, as opposed to going through probate and having everything made public. 
  2. Family limited partnerships – When you set up a partnership that allocates assets among the partners, you can provide a benefit right then which reduces estate taxes by lowering the book value.  
  3. Gifting trusts – by utilizing an irrevocable generation-skipping trust, you are able to make non-taxable gifts during your lifetime up to $16,000 per person per year. By doing this, it is removed from your estate and allows you to retain control over your assets. 

All in all, it’s important to consider these options now. Trusts, estate taxes and the GST are constantly shifting and changing under federal and state laws. It’s crucial to work with qualified legal professionals to create and implement your estate plan. Our attorneys at Rhodes Law Firm are eager to help you create the best plan for your needs. Contact us today!

7 Signs You Should Hire a Trust Attorney

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Trust AttorneyAccording to a recent study, more than 50% of Americans think estate planning is somewhat important, but only 33% have a will or living trust.

And while nobody likes planning for when they’re no longer able to take care of things, estate planning isn’t something you should ignore when there are loved ones you might leave behind.

This is where a trust attorney comes in – they help ensure the best possible outcomes for legal estate planning.

Who is a Trust Attorney?

A trust attorney serves as a personal guide throughout the estate planning process. They walk you through federal and state laws regarding estate planning, assess your goals, and find the perfect balance between the two.

From there, they’ll help you set up a legally binding trust that meets your needs. The attorney will also help manage the trust as time goes by to ensure it is effective.

There are plenty of reasons why you should hire a trust attorney, but it all boils down to peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Below are seven signs you should hire a trust attorney.

1. You Need to Update Documents

Legal estate planning documents aren’t prepared once and stored away for good. Regular amendments are essential to match the documents with changing financial conditions and unfolding life events.

However, updating these documents isn’t about simply making edits. There are legal matters involved that require extensive knowledge of law to handle. An experienced trust attorney from Rhodes Law Firm can help you seamlessly align your estate plans with your current needs. This will help protect your loved ones while preventing family conflicts.

Moreover, an attorney is committed to adhering to all the legal procedures. Doing so prevents any errors that might adversely affect the distribution of assets once you’re gone.

2. You Need the Best Plan for Protecting Yourself, Your Family, and Your Assets

A good estate plan consists of several documents to ensure that your family doesn’t jump through hoops if and when you pass away. These may include a will, trust, medical directive, guardianship nomination, power of attorney, and general assignment.

All of these documents require the use of precise verbiage to ensure that your assets will end up in the hands of the people you care about most. For example, they can help set up a trust for underage children to receive assets when they reach a certain age.

Mistakes like a missing signature or using the wrong words can be the reason your loved ones aren’t protected. A trust attorney ensures that you cover all of your bases.

3. You Need Help Appointing a Trustee

It’s essential to select a trustee when creating a trust. A trustee will be responsible for managing and monitoring assets in the trust. They also handle filing taxes for the trust.

You need an excellent trustee – accountable, organized, responsible, and trustworthy. Finding someone who fits these criteria can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time.

A reputable estate planning lawyer makes finding a trustee an easier task. They help you understand the responsibilities of a trustee, recommend good options, and help you choose someone who fits your needs.

4. You Need Help Navigating Complications

The estate may be simple for someone with no debt, streamlined finances, and limited assets. However, the following factors may complicate matters:

  • Multiple marriages
  • Multiple children
  • Minor children
  • Divorce
  • Problem children
  • No children
  • Real estate in different cities or states
  • Disabled loved ones
  • Substantial assets
  • Debt

If any of the above complications apply to you, having a trust attorney by your side can make navigating them easier. And even if your estate isn’t complicated, your trust lawyer may have a different opinion.

5. You Need Help Determining or Reducing Tax Liabilities

When determining whether your estate is liable for state or federal taxes, several factors come into play. These include:

  • Gross estate value
  • The amount owed at the time of death
  • Total expenses incurred while settling the estate
  • Deductions the estate is liable to take

That said, if you wish to avoid or reduce probate and estate taxes, setting up a trust is the right move. It will provide directives on what happens to your assets and specifies the beneficiaries. A trust attorney can help you achieve this goal while adhering to complex tax laws.

6. You Want to Avoid the Probate Process

The probate process can take up to a year and cost a lot of money. It’s also public, and as such, people can contest it and any legal documents involved.

A trust lawyer can help you set up a trust and avoid probate. The trustee you appoint to manage the living trust will be in charge of distributing the assets.

The living trust is a private document that isn’t a part of the public record. As a result, it will protect your privacy. The document will also allow for faster distribution of assets, which will save on time and costs. A trust attorney will be invaluable in establishing a valid and enforceable trust that avoids probate.

7. You Need an Estate Plan That Will Take Care of a Special Needs Family Member(s)

If you have a child or a loved one with special needs, it makes sense that you’d want to have an estate plan that protects them. This is particularly important because they can lose certain public benefits if they inherit assets outright. Certain types of trusts allow people with special needs to receive their inheritance and still receive government benefits.

However, this area of estate planning is complicated and requires the help of someone with very specific knowledge. An estate planning attorney who is well-versed with special needs trusts can ensure that they get an inheritance that supplements their public benefits.

Need a Trust Lawyer?

No one likes planning for their death or incapacitation. However, every decision you make should be good for you and your loved ones. Your trust attorney will set up your trust and provide valuable legal guidance to you and whoever you name as trustee.

If you are ready to create a solid estate plan, contact us today to meet with a specialized trust attorney at Rhodes Law Firm.