Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Y’all! AAA estimates that over 100 million Americans will travel this holiday season. 100 MILLION. Planes, trains, and automobiles, oh my! Much like planning a trip well in advance helps you avoid long lines, expensive hotels, and crowded airports (some with no power), having a good estate plan in place helps you avoid expensive court proceedings, lengthy trials, and generations long family feuds (see Heath Ledger). If you plan on traveling, plan on seeing our firm for estate planning first. Here are four things to think about before you visit an estate planner:
- How much does it cost? While many legal services are charged by the hour, estate planning work including a Last Will and Testament is often charged at a flat fee rate, so that you will know exactly what you can expect to pay before you sign on with a firm to prepare your documents. Hourly rates can introduce uncertainty into the process, so be sure to find out how much you should expect to pay, and whether the fee will be due up front or at the signing. A complete quote may be contingent on determining on the complexity of your will, but by the end of an initial consultation, you should know what costs to expect for this process.
- What all is included? Most attorneys are capable of turning your wishes into a lawful Last Will and Testament. However, a will should be interwoven into your entire plan. Does the fee include a general estate planning discussion? In addition, wills are often packaged with other essential documents everyone should have in place – not to plan for their death but for the contingencies of life: a medical power of attorney, a physician’s directive (or living will), and a statutory durable power of attorney. You can typically execute all four (4) documents for only slightly more than a will alone. Many firms offer package deals for couples. A good estate planner will give you several different options for completing your personalized estate plan.
- How Experienced Are the Attorneys? Many attorneys and firms will agree to prepare your will but it is only a small part of their regular practice. Attorneys whose exclusive focus is estate planning and probate will have more experience with a variety of circumstances that could better anticipate and prepare for life’s complexities and uncertainties. Successful will drafting can involve precision and nuance in the language that is used. Find a firm that will take the time to ask important questions, and will customize your will to meet your specific needs. Will one or more of your heirs need trust protection for their inheritance? Do you need to take action to prepare for Medicaid or VA Aid and attendance eligibility? Will a revocable living trust help your family avoid the expense of probate after your death?
- What Happens if I Die Without a Will? However you decide to proceed, be sure you take action to have a lawful will in place, and seek the help of a qualified estate planning attorney. Without a will, the distribution of your estate will be determined by state law and not by you. Likewise, the person named to be in charge of administering your estate will be appointed by a court. Most importantly, be sure your will is prepared and executed under the guidance of an attorney. Websites that offer DIY robo-wills cannot guarantee that your will is lawfully executed or that it addresses all that it should. The most common mistake we see is an improperly executed Last Will and Testament.
If you have questions, please contact our office at 817.638.9016 or email us at RWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net. For more exclusive content, please join our monthly email list here.