Estate Planning: A thorough plan includes documents that will protect your property, your wishes and your family from issues such as probate, squabbling, and other problems.
In the event of your death, your family is grieving and there are certain wishes that you want to ensure are carried out. Perhaps you want to recognize the people in your life that contributed to your happiness or your family’s happiness, they were a part of your family and you want to be sure that property is kept in the family, and a number of other reasons that you want to be sure are documented and carried out after your passing. Your plan is instrumental in making sure these wishes are carried out.
Perhaps there is an accident, and you are unfortunately left incapacitated or unable to make choices or provide information necessary for your care. Your plan should include decisions that you make in advance to release your health care information, plan for your finances so that someone can pay your bills, make decisions on whether or not you wish to use life support equipment, etc.. Most people already have answers to most of these questions, but fail to ever document them. This forces family members to use the courts to impose decisions, which is costly in both time and expense. Remember this case? Unfortunately, the husband is having to work through the courts to decide whether life support can be removed, while the parents are arguing against it. With an Advance Health Care Directive in place, these decisions would have been made prior to these issues and the courts (and costs) would have not have been involved.
An estate planner will help you to answer these questions and put a plan into place that will help your family to administer your wishes and property accordingly. The last thing you want is to have your estate create tensions in the family or for your wishes to be ignored, and your plan will help ensure that these problems don’t surface.
Which Documents Should Your Estate Plan Include?
An estate plan will typically include the following documents:
- Last Will and Testament
- Living Trust
- HIPAA Medical Release
- Advance Health Care Directive
- Power of Attorney
Depending on your needs, whether you’re married or single, whether you have children, the size of your estate, etc., you might have a variation of these documents or require additional documents to cover all of your assets. But, these documents are typical of a standard plan.
Discount Estate Planning Preparation Services
In my experience, parts of these documents can be built using boilerplate terms and conditions, but all families are unique and all needs are unique, so there should not be a “one size fits all” plan. There are online services that offer a “complete” plan for a few hundred dollars or other services that offer one document or the other, but I would advise against these services. You need to ensure that a knowledgeable person is aware of your entire situation, your assets and wishes, your family and circumstances, and anything else that might contribute to your plan. Discount services aren’t going to explore the nuances that make your situation unique. They aren’t going to review your plan to be sure that it includes everything related to your needs. I would be surprised if they reviewed anything at all, but I am not sure how these services operate behind the scenes…I just know that the amount of time that it takes to prepare these documents versus the amount that they charge for them doesn’t leave a lot of room for review.
A lot of people are hesitant to start their plan because of the cost. The discount services are inadequate, and some attorneys are charging $10,000 for a thorough plan. Using the Pareto Principle, 80% of a “standard” estate plan can be built using boilerplate templates, leaving 20% to be customized specifically for the needs of the client. The 20% is what I consider requires an attorney to review and make recommendations to your specific needs. I believe most plans will fall into this category and will cost between $1,500 and $2,500. In some cases, the costs may be more in order to cover additional requirements. For example, special needs trusts, elderly parents, step and adopted children, etc.
Estate planning starts with an understanding of what goes into a comprehensive estate plan. An attorney is the best resource to help ferret out the nuances that makes your plan unique and custom. The Law Office of Robert B. Dundas understands these customizations and is sensitive to your financial situation. I can help you with your estate planning to put a plan in place that will cover your assets and wishes, as well as document important decisions so that your family doesn’t have to make those tough choices.