Estate planning faq

​How much does it cost?

  • It depends.  Almost all estate planning projects cost either $750 or $2,000, plus a nominal amount to record any beneficiary or trust funding deeds.  However, if you have a more unique or complex situation, the price may differ.  We would agree upon a flat rate before the work begins.


How long will the process take?

  • Estate planning projects usually take about one month from start to finish. We can certainly make things happen more quickly, if needed.


What should I bring to my first appointment?

  • No need to bring anything!  Come as you are.  With that said, if you have easy access to old estate planning documents, deeds to real estate, or business planning documents (like Operating Agreements or Bylaws), we might take a quick look at them.


I don’t have many assets – do I really need an estate plan?

  • Yes! We plan for not only death, but disability, as well.  Moreover, often the need for a good plan is even greater with fewer assets, because the expense of probate can be an even higher percentage of total assets when the probate estate is smaller. If you don’t have a lot of money, you DO NOT want your estate (or loved ones) paying for probate work.


Can I just add my adult children to my bank accounts and call it good?

  • No!  First off, that’s a taxable gift.  Second, if they get divorced, predecease you, or otherwise find themselves with creditor issues, YOUR money will be available to his/her creditors, divorcing spouse, etc.


How do I avoid probate at death?

  • There are three ways to avoid probate.  1. Die with zero assets.  2. Die with assets held in a trust.  3. Die with assets titled with legally enforceable / proper beneficiary designations.


What is a trust?

  • A trust is simply an agreement that names a responsible party to manage your assets pursuant to your wishes for the benefit of your beneficiaries.


I’m my mom’s Agent on her power of attorney  – we’re good, right?

  • No!  First, you cannot override her stated wishes.  If she becomes ill and wants to invest in the latest scam, she can, and you cannot prevent her from doing so.  Second, the power she’s delegated to you ceases at her death.  The POA will be worthless immediately after her death.


I’m thinking about using Rocket Lawyer, LegalZoom, or some other online program.  Should be good, right?

  • No!  Those programs are not state specific, and you need a state specific plan.  Moreover, the documents are only as good as the answers you provide.  We spend a tremendous amount of time working through the questions with our clients, because there is far more to consider that what first meets the eye.


Who will get my kids if my spouse and I die?

  • It depends.  However, as general matter, a judge will have to appoint a Guardian for your children.  If you haven’t expressed your wishes in a legally enforceable Will, the judge will have no way of knowing where you’d like your kids to go.  Though it can be a hard decision to make, NOBODY is as qualified as you to make this hard decision.  Don’t leave it up to the judge.


What is the difference between a trust and will?

  • To oversimplify it, a Will speaks on your behalf as of the moment you pass away.  It names a Guardian for your minor children, and it tells the judge where you want your assets to go.  It accomplishes nothing unless it is probated.  Conversely, among many other things, a trust can be used to avoid probate all together, and it can allow for customized and strategic distributions of assets.  We discuss this topic extensively in our initial estate planning meetings.


Can I have a separate person make my health care decisions than the person that controls my finances?

  • Yes.  They are different responsibilities, and these personal representatives are named on separate documents.


My spouse and I bought our home together, so we’re good right?

  • Yes and no.  Assuming “together” means “as joint tenants with rights of survivorship” and not “as tenants in common,” if one of you were to pass away, you would be able to avoid probate on that particular asset.  If you were to both pass away, the house would have to go through probate.  Moreover, if you haven’t done any other estate planning, the rest of your assets are likely not addressed properly, and there are many other things to consider.


If I only have one child and no other family, I don’t really need a will, do I?

  • Yes!  Though the default rules might transfer the assets to your one child, the default rules require an expensive and long public process.  Probate will cost thousands and take well over six months.  A basic estate plan only costs a few hundred dollars, and it will take dramatically less time to put in place.  Moreover, if you don’t formally appoint that one child to speak on your behalf regarding healthcare and financial matters, they won’t be able to care for you in the event of disability.


Can I just write some stuff down and call it good?

  • No.  There are a number of legal formalities to be aware of, and there are a number of things to consider that aren’t self-evident.


I made an estate plan years ago, do I need to update it?

  • Maybe.  You should at least dust it off and see if it still sounds good to you.  Most likely, at least something has changed.  You can always give us a quick call and ask a couple questions!  We’d be happy to discuss any questions you may have.