Hello, and thank you for interest in estate planning. You have taken the first step to achieving peace of mind from knowing that you have provided for your loved ones and proactively addressed any concerns you might have for the future.
Many attorneys view estate planning as simply creating a set of “one size fits all” documents to be used at your death or if you become disabled. At Epiphany Law, estate planning is more than documents. It is a process of understating the family dynamics, and defining your hopes, dreams, and often, fears for the future and your loved ones. We then, use this information, to craft solutions that anticipate and eliminate the uncertainties of life in order to achieve your goals for the important people in your life.
Estate planning is important for every person to complete regardless of their wealth. Why? Most people want to make their own decisions. If you fail to communicate your wishes, a court will determine the outcome of important matters, such as guardian for minor children or whether to keep you on life support. The courts will also decide who will receive your estate assets and when. An estate plan can allow you to alleviate the burden on your family members at the time of death—a time that is already hard enough.
Every person and every family is different. Therefore, each estate plan is different. However, certain documents are the foundation to any good plan. The foundational pieces of an estate plan consist of: a will and/or revocable living trust, advanced directives for health care, and a financial durable power of attorney. While wills and trusts can both be used to achieve many estate planning goals, a trust-based plan is the only method that avoids the probate process.
Will or a Revocable Living Trust
As stated above, an estate plan utilizes a Will or a Revocable Trust. Both Wills and Trusts are devices which you can use to provide for the distribution of your estate upon your death. Whether a Will or a Trust best fits your needs depends on your circumstances. A Trust is a popular alternative to the traditional Will, but you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each before deciding on one plan or the other.
In simple terms, a Will is used to distribute your property to beneficiaries, specify your last wishes, and name guardians for minor children. Without one, the courts will make these critical decisions for you. A Will provides court supervision for handling beneficiary challenges and creditor disputes. A Will does not grant the family any privacy because all of your assets become public record at the time of your death. The initial cost of a Will is less than the cost to prepare than a Trust, however, the cost to probate a Will can be substantial (the average ranges from 3%-5% of your estate).
A Trust is used to transfer property to beneficiaries, but unlike a Will, a Trust is not usually subject to probate court, thereby saving years and thousands of dollars in attorneys’ and court fees. With a Trust, there is no automatic court supervision to deal with disputes and the Trust also remains private. The Trust will cost more than a Will initially and will require some effort now, but avoids the additional cost and effort of probate if the Trust is fully funded. Trusts are generally preferred when a client:
- owns property in more than one state;
- wants to protect assets for their children in case of divorce, creditor actions, etc.;
- holds tax-deferred assets that can be stretched through the use of trust planning;
- has a blended family;
- has a family member with special needs;
- wishes to incorporate basic tax planning and maintain flexibility in the case of tax changes; and
- in various other circumstances that we can discuss further in our initial meeting.
The estimated cost for preparing an estate plan varies depending on your unique circumstances. Will-based estate plans start as low as $495.00. For more complicated Wills, the costs range from $600.00 to $800.00. A Trust based plan is generally ranges from $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 (which also includes a transfer on one property). Again, the cost depends on the marital status and the individual circumstances. Occasionally in order to meet a family’s goals, it is necessary for us to do additional drafting and planning. This may result in an additional investment to meet these goals, but we will provide an estimate before undertaking the work. If assistance is requested to transfer other assets into a trust, or if tax planning or other services are required, additional fees will be quoted for those services. Both will and trust-based estate plans include Health Care and Durable Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directive (living will), HIPAA Release and Authorization, a Personal Property Memorandum, and Marital Property Agreement.
Please note that we do not simply fill out computer forms for you to sign. We craft a custom estate plan based on your specific needs and provide explanations and advice on how best to meet your goals. Our clients find exceptional value in having a customized plan and we hope you will appreciate this personal approach as well.
We ask all first-time estate planning clients to complete a short intake sheet prior to our meeting to help us recommend the appropriate plan for you. Please be assured that we will maintain confidentially in regards to any information we receive from you and will never discuss this information without your permission. You may not have all the answers to the questions asked in the intake sheet. In that case, just fill in the information the best you can. A rough guesstimate of the amount will suffice. It is more important that we know the type of asset (IRA, money market account, real estate) then the exact value.
Additionally, we ask that you think about who you would like to fill certain roles in regards to your estate planning. You can assume that you and your spouse will manage your affairs initially. If, however, you and your spouse are not able to do so:
- Who would you want to take care of your assets and your financial affairs?
- Who would you want to care for your minor children, if any?
- Who would you like to make decisions related to your health-care?
- Other than your spouse, are there others you would like to receive health care information from your doctors?
In some instances, some prefer their adult children to act in these roles; others prefer trusted relatives or friends. Please also give this some additional thought and if you have any questions, please let us know.
When you are ready to proceed, simply contact our office to make an appointment. If at all possible, please send or e-mail the completed intake sheet to our office so it is received at least one day before your appointment. Please also forward or bring copies of any existing estate planning documents you may have (i.e., Wills, Powers of Attorney, etc.). This will give us the best opportunity to review this material, and we can accomplish more at our meeting. If you are unable to send the intake sheet in advance, just bring it with you.
Generally, our review and creation of an estate plan, the drafting of the plan documents, and the signing of the documents takes no more than two to three weeks, and we can work faster in emergencies. The actual transfers and deeds may take a bit longer, but are usually done within four to six weeks.
The Initial Consultation
At your initial consultation, we will review all of the information and completed documents you provide to us. We will discuss your concerns and goals, and will give you information about probate, estate planning, and capacity planning. Your appointment should last about 30 minutes.
Again we appreciate the opportunity to work with you to accomplish your estate planning goals. If you have any questions before the scheduled appointment, feel free to contact us at (920) 996-0000. We look forward to meeting with you.
EPIPHANY LAW, LLC