Estate planning forces individuals or couples to contemplate their mortality. It can be an unpleasant topic for some or prompt them to worry about their legacy. Conversely, some may regard it as fun to contemplate how they will “give it all away.” They need to identify beneficiaries, map out a plan for preserving assets for future generations, or best manage an estate while still alive. There are also essential decisions regarding guardianship of young children or grown children or spouses unable to care for themselves.
Some choose to do this work independently, but it is generally best to work with an attorney with experience handling estate planning. It can help effectively address all foreseeable issues. It also helps ensure that the will or estate plan is valid, reducing the likelihood of disputes or confusion.
Starting the conversation
Potential clients should discuss their needs and goals with an attorney and pose questions to one or more to find the right attorney for the job. Some important topics to cover include:
What is the range of your services?
Different attorneys have different skillsets. For example, many handle probate issues, but they may not have tax law experience.
Based on the information I’ve given, what else needs to be addressed?
Estate plans help clients get their affairs in order, but it also helps prepare for the future, such as healthcare directives or powers of attorney.
Can you construct a comprehensive plan?
Estates can have a variety of assets that include real property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, and other things. A comprehensive plan can address all the issues specific to the individual or family.
Do you execute the plan?
Some lawyers draw up all the documents, while others may oversee the estate administration and final affairs as well as ancillary probate matters.
What is the fee?
Some attorneys may have a flat fee for doing a simple will, while others charge by the hour. It may be a combination of both.
The beginning of an ongoing conversation
These initial questions will likely lead to others as the attorney helps determine the best course of action based on the client’s wishes. It is also recommended that the documents are updated from time to time if there are changes in the family, such as divorce, the arrival of grandchildren or other considerations.