How Do I Create a Last Will and Testament or Revocable Living Trust?

Last Wills or a Trust is a key component of a comprehensive estate plan.  The internet has a perplexing amount of information, some good and some wrong or even misleading. Too often this leads to inaction or worse, using an faulty online resource to complete an ineffective estate plan.  Nothing is worse than discovering that an estate plan is wrong at appoint in time when it is too late to fix it.  That is why most people look for an experienced attorney as a guide to determine what is needed and to create the right plan for their situation.

What Is the Best Way to Start an Estate Plan?

The best way to start an Estate Plan is to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney.  While most attorneys have “forms” few keep up with changes in the law as it relates to this area.  Some attorneys concentrate their practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, and Medicaid Nursing Home Eligibility.

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What Should I Expect When I Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney?

Your meeting with an estate planning attorney should be in a comfortable setting.  You should be treated with respect and courtesy by the attorney and his or her staff.  The attorney should listen to understand your family, your needs and desires.  Once the attorney has gotten to know you, different plans should be discussed depending on your situation and needs.  Sometimes a Will packages is appropriate, in other situations a revocable living trust is the best solution.

How Much Will an Initial Estate Planning Consultation Cost?

Most attorneys do not charge a fee for an initial 30–60-minute consultation to discuss creation or amendment of an estate plan in their office.  If you like the attorney and his rates, then you will enter into an agreement that describes the work and how the fees will be paid.  Most attorneys will require a deposit to move forward with the plan with the balance due at signing.  Some firms offer payment plans.

How Long Will It Take to Finish an Estate Plan?

Generally, an estate planning attorney should have your paperwork ready for review or signing within 7 to 14 days.  A date will be scheduled for signing.  At the signing the attorney will review the paperwork, make any necessary corrections.  Expect be two witnesses and notary public present to witness your signature.  Most signings require 45-90 minutes.  Once completed, the attorney will usually make copies and have the documents organized into a binder.  Often there may be a deed or other documents that require filing with the county land records.  If you have a Trust Plan, then expect to need to take some additional steps to make sure that it is funded to work properly.

What Should I Bring to an Estate Planning Meeting?

The most important thing to bring to an estate planning meeting is the names, addresses and telephone numbers of family members.  You should also have that information or  anybody that you intend to name as a person with authority such as an Executor, Trustee, or Agent under a Power of Attorney.  It is also helpful to bring some information regarding assets such as life insurance, bank accounts, investments, real estate or mineral interests.  Also, be sure to bring any existing estate planning documents.

Should I Bring a Child or Other Family Member to the Estate Planning Meeting?

Some people want others to attend an estate planning meeting.  This may include a spouse, child, family member or trusted friend.  In many cases this is a good idea.  Do not be surprised if the attorney wants to visit with you privately.  This is not to offend the other attendees, instead this is to protect both you and them from claims of undue influence.

What Should I Do if I Don’t Like the Attorney or Fees Are Too High?

If you don’t like the attorney you can certainly walk away.  If you believe that the fees are too high, you can also shop around.  Keep in mind that lower costs does not always mean a better deal. 

Why Should I Create an Estate Plan?

There are many reasons to create an estate plan, among these are:

  • Control:  Most people want to stay in control as long as possible. This includes determining who will serve as agent under power of attorney, as trustee or executor.
  • Transition:  A well designed estate plan can greatly help a family navigate issues that arise.  This not just once a person dies, but also if they become unable to manager their affairs.
  • Cost Savings:  Most estate plan are designed to avoid the need of costly court intervention.  Obviously one is concerned about probate but proper documents can avoid the necessity of appointing guardians.
  • Conflict Avoidance:  Having your wishes for your finances, assets and healthcare documented can avoid family conflicts.
  • Efficiency:  A probate avoidance estate plan can save a family time and confusion regarding how assets should be administered.