BE PREPARED TO CUT YOUR LEGAL FEES WHEN DOING ESTATE PLANNING

The client who comes prepared for meetings with their attorney save significant amounts on their legal fees. This is because the attorney can work much more efficiently to address your needs.

The nature of the preparation is dependent on the type of matter involved, but, at the very least, you should consider writing out a list of questions and/or issues to be discussed. This will help you “focus” the discussion, stay on track, and avoid forgetting something which needs attention.

If we were asked to assist you in the preparation of your estate planning documents (Will, Power of Attorney for Health Care, and Power of Attorney (Financial), we would urge you to consider the following:

  • Who will be Executor?
    • You can list more than one in succession
    • Often this is a spouse, family member or a bank
  • Who will handle funds of any beneficiaries who are minors-we ALWAYS RECOMMEND that this is a bank rather than an individual?
    • This avoids family disharmony in the event of disagreements
    • They are bonded, and in the (unforeseeable) event of a lawsuit have assets which can be reached
    • Professional management and record keeping
    • Names, addresses and social security numbers of all “owners”
  • Who will raise your children if your spouse does not survive you?
  • Who will make decisions for you on health care matters (including end of life issues) if you cannot make them for yourself, Often this is your spouse (as the primary holder) and then a family member (as successor)?
  • Who will make decisions for you on financial matters, if you cannot make them for yourself, Often this is your spouse (as the primary holder) and then a family member (as successor)?
  • How will your estate be distributed?
    • “Special” bequests (like a family memento) or a gift to non-family members.
    • A charitable bequest.
    • Most often, any remaining assets (after payment of debts, taxes and costs) are given to a surviving spouse (either outright or in trust for the spouse), but if spouse does not survive you, all to a trust in favor of your children (with income to be used for health, maintenance and education) until they reach certain ages (at which time the principal of the trust is distributed).

Although there are several “do your own will” software packages available, it turns out that estate planning is NOT “one size fits all”. Such software could produce documents which either (or both) do not reflect your wishes, or are not in compliance with the applicable statutes. Using a “canned” software package to prepare your estate planning documents means you are acting as your own lawyer; everyone knows the punch line to THAT story.

The adage “time is money” is particularly true when working with your attorney. By spending some of your time preparing for your meeting with your attorney, you could save a substantial amount of money.