Estate planning is a critical part of financial planning, but something many Americans procrastinate about. Yet drafting a will and a health care proxy or power of attorney, maybe creating a trust, and maximizing your loved ones’ inheritances by minimizing taxes, are all important matters you don’t want to leave to chance.
Taking care of these key tasks correctly limits the potential for family turmoil and possible legal battles should you become incapacitated, as well as after your death. An estate planner can help you prevent crucial missteps and assist you in adjusting your plans as your circumstances, and laws, change.
Here are some helpful tips to consider:
Experience is critically important. Knowledge and specialized experience comes with being well-versed and up-to-date with the laws of your state. Otherwise, your estate plan could be deemed invalid by the court.
Ask What, and How, the Estate Planner Charges
The amount you’ll spend depends on the complexity of your needs, your location and your attorney’s experience level. Many offer packages, which will include multiple documents for one set price, such as a power of attorney (authorizing someone to make financial or legal decisions for you when you can’t) and other advance directives.
A trust may cost more, but can help save on estate taxes, avoid probate (proving in court that a will is valid), save on time and court fees and put conditions on the disposition of your assets after you die.
Some estate-planning attorneys charge by the hour. As a rule of thumb, these lawyers typically have hourly fees of $250 to $550. If you’ll use one who charges by the hour, ask approximately how long the process will take, so you have an idea of the total cost from the outset. Most estate planning can and should be done on a flat-fee basis with the understanding that updates are needed over the years as your situation — or even the law — changes.
Recognize This Is an Ongoing Relationship
While interviewing estate planners, be certain that you’ll feel comfortable with the person you choose. Since you’ll be sharing personal details of your life and finances, you’ll want to feel comfortable and listened to. A good estate planner should pay attention to even the smallest details and ask questions about your situation to tailor a plan unique to you and your needs.
At Tacoma Elder Care, we are always working on ways to help you. If you are just beginning to think about your planning, we highly recommend attending one of our FREE workshops to learn more about how to start, and the most important documents everyone needs to have in place. Contact us today to register, or to schedule a FREE consultation.
Bob Michaels is a shareholder at Smith Alling, P.S. in Tacoma, WA, and focuses his practice on elder law/estate planning, business and real estate matters. Bob’s daily practice consists of working with clients in preparing life-plan documents, such as Wills, Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, Community Property Agreements and other documents to determine the management and disposition of our clients’ affairs in the event of disability or death. Contact Bob today to schedule your FREE consultation.