What is Estate Planning
This is simply the process of arranging for an orderly transfer of your assets to the people you want to receive them, it involves identifying who you want to give your assets to and when, either in your life time or at death; but sometimes done after death).
Most often than not, we look at Updated beneficiary designation forms as one Estate planning we all need where it forms on life insurance policies, 401(k) accounts and other assets will generally override any conflicting provisions within a will or trust. It’s essential to make sure all forms are checked and updated regularly, ideally on an annual basis.
Essential Estate Planning Documents
You’ve likely heard of a will. Most people think of a will when they think about estate planning. While it is the most common legal document in an estate plan, a will might not be enough to make sure your possessions get into the right hands when you can’t manage them yourself.
Last Will and Testament
This is a written document that lists how you would like your belongings to be distributed after you are gone. If you want your cousin to have your antique lamp, you can put that in your will.
You can put your assets into a living trust for your benefit while you are still living. Upon your death, your belongings go to the person you designated in the trust, without the need for probate court.
Durable Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself, a durable power of attorney can appoint someone to make decisions for you.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Commonly referred to as an advanced care directive, a healthcare power of attorney gives someone else the authority to make decisions about your healthcare due to your incapacity.
Some assets, such as life insurance and 401(k) plans, can bypass a will or trust altogether if you designate a beneficiary. Otherwise, the court may decide who inherits all those funds.
The Cost of Estate Planning
Your total costs will depend on how simple or complex your situation is. How you will pay is as important as what you will pay. While retainer fees and contingency fees are typical for criminal cases, you won’t see them for estate planning. The cost of estate planning is usually calculated through one of three fee types which are
- Consultation fee
- Flat fee
- Hourly rate fee
Most lawyers won’t ask you to fork over any cash for an initial consultation. This first meeting might be in-person or over the telephone. During a consultation, the attorney will get insight into your situation to help them determine your estate planning needs. Don’t expect much information from this phone call. Estate planning is complex and can’t be handled in a single 30 to 60-minute encounter.
A flat fee is the most common type that lawyers charge for estate planning. With a flat fee, you will pay the same amount no matter how many times you call or email with a question. The attorney can explain things to you without worrying about running out the clock, and you will be more relaxed knowing you won’t get a surprise bill in the mail.
A typical flat fee estate plan includes the most common estate planning tools such as
- A simple will
- A powers of attorney for finances and property
- A power of attorney for healthcare decisions
- A living will outlining end of life decisions, and
- An appointment of guardianship for parents.
While this a typical estate planning bundle, not all flat fee arrangements are identical. When agreeing to a flat fee, be sure you understand what documents and services are included in your estate plan.
Some attorneys will charge you by the hour to prepare an estate plan. Hourly rates can vary. You might find lawyers who bill anywhere from a higher point or more or vice versa. Shopping around before you hire an attorney is a smart move. You might be surprised how different lawyer fees can be, even in the same town.
If you would like to learn more about the necessity of estate planning as regards the Pandemic, please contact any of our estate planning attorneys today.