Estate planning may be as simple as preparing your last will and testament or it may entail revocable living trusts and more. In coming to our firm, we see estate planning as not just mere document preparation but a process to make sure you are protected in the event of your incapacity and your wishes are followed upon your death. The truth is that not all estate planning attorneys are the same. In hiring your estate planning attorney, please be sure to consider the following:
Do they do only estate planning and elder law?
Many attorneys in our community do estate planning, but they also do business law, divorce law, consumer law, bankruptcy, real estate, criminal law, etc. Just as there are specialists in medicine, there are also specialists in law. You don’t need to go to a generalist for your estate planning when a specialist is available and will do a better job for you and your family. At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., estate planning and elder law is all D. “Rep” DeLoach, III, does. He doesn’t just dabble in estate planning while practicing many other areas of law.
Do they have a counseling-based design process?
Many estate planning attorneys act as little more than word processors, filling in a form according to a client’s direction. This is not the most effective way to create your estate plan as there are many options and hidden concerns you may have that could go unaddressed, even if you have a more simple estate.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, we use our estate planning process to fully discuss your situation, your desires, your assets and only then custom design your estate plan. We walk you through the process step-by-step, explaining and providing planning options you likely won’t hear about anywhere else, using our unique design strategies that will protect you and also protect your loved one's inheritance.
Do they “fund” your estate plan or trust?
You may not know that many estate plans do not work because they are not fully “funded” when there’s a death or disability. Funding your estate plan means making sure your assets are distributed to the correct place. Funding your estate plan also means transferring your assets to your revocable living trust. The reality is that most attorneys do not help “fund” their client’s estate plan, which can lead to terrible results upon your death or incapacity.
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, we use a thorough process to ensure your estate plan is correctly funded and that it will work when the time comes. We want to make sure you have the correct documents in place and that your assets reflect your planning desires.
Do they provide you with a binder and other information as part of their planning?
Creating and funding your estate plan is a very important part of the process but it does not stop there. We provide you not only with top-notch service and quality but we will help organize your estate plan so that things are easier for you and your heirs upon your death or incapacity. We provide you a series of handouts and guides that answer your commonly asked questions and help your family make the right decisions upon your death or incapacity.
Does their planning provide protection for children from creditors, divorcing spouses or the nursing home?
Many estate plans distribute assets outright to your heirs upon your death. This means that your children’s inheritance could be lost to their creditors, divorcing spouses or the nursing home if they get sick. You worked hard to get your assets to your heirs and then the inheritance gets lost to these things.
One option in your estate plan is to build in creditor, divorce and nursing home protection for your beneficiaries. We help our clients choose the levels or protection and control which best fit the character and dangers facing their inheritors. Our unique planning provides this type of protection while giving your beneficiaries appropriate access and control upon your death.
Is their attorney Board Certified in Elder Law by the Florida Bar Association?
The reality is that not all estate planning attorneys know the rules about Medicaid, VA benefits and asset protection planning. In order to create the best estate plans for you that can protect you if you had a downturn in health and your assets for your children's benefit, your estate planning attorney should know how their documents will effect their asset protection planning down the road.
Is their attorney a Certified End-of-Life Counselor?
D. “Rep” DeLoach, III is a certified Respecting Choices facilitator to provide end-of-life decision making and counseling. This will be important in discussing your living will and designation of healthcare surrogate. Most attorneys do not care about end-of-life issues, have little experience with them, or do not even know their own lack of knowledge. Rep’s goal is to be the best resource he can for his clients and their families.
Has their law firm been a part of Pinellas County since 1976?
DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., was founded in 1978 by Rep DeLoach’s father, Dennis R. DeLoach, Jr., who has been practicing law in Pinellas County since 1964. Our firm has positively touched the lives of thousands of Pinellas County residents over these many years. We are community leaders, participating in local government, civic organizations, charities and churches. We are not a new legal practice that may or may not be here tomorrow for you and your family.
Does their attorney speak professionally to other attorneys in Continuing Legal Education seminars?
D. “Rep” DeLoach, III is recognized statewide for his frequent lectures to his fellow practicing attorneys, providing them legal education in the areas of estate planning, elder law and ethics. Doing this helps Rep stay on top of the current legal trends and be a leader in his specialty.
Do they belong to a national professional organization of estate planners and keep up with new practices in estate planning?
We are active members of WealthCounsel, a premier professional organization for estate planners. Our membership provides us constantly updated training, the best software available for custom building estate plans, and access to the wisdom and experience of thousands of colleagues around the country.
Do they have a flat fee that will cover all of their work?
Once we have reviewed your situation and desires, we will quote you a fixed fee for all of our work based upon our simple fee schedule. You will not need to worry about asking questions, reviewing your documents, or making changes, as we want to make sure your estate plan works for you and your heirs.
Remember, your estate planning attorney is responsible for planning for everything you own and everyone you care about, so choose your attorney carefully!