Ten FAQs About Estate Planning

We have compiled ten of the most commonly asked questions about estate planning, and our responses to those questions.

1. Why do I need an estate plan? A proper estate plan is one of the best gifts that you can give to the people you care about the most. You will decide who will handle your financial and medical affairs if you become incapacitated and you will decide who will receive your assets as, how and when as clearly specified in your documents.


2. What happens if I never get around to creating my estate plan? Without a proper estate plan, the probate court, not you, will decide who will make financial or medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated; the intestacy laws, not you, will dictate who will receive your assets upon your death; and estate taxes and long-term care expenses may significantly reduce the size of your estate.


3. Isn't estate planning something that only wealthy people need to be concerned about? In our opinion, every adult, regardless of their family or financial situation, should have at least a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, HIPAA Authorization, Living Will and up-to-date beneficiary designations for their retirement and insurance assets.


4. Do I really need professional assistance with my estate plan? We have years of professional experience, belong to national estate planning organizations, and frequently attend professional continuing education courses that enable us to apply only those estate planning tools and techniques which are appropriate for you. With your active involvement, we will design an estate plan that is driven by your particular circumstances rather than a "one-size-fits-all" approach.


5. What is the goal of proper estate planning? The goal of proper estate planning is to arrange your affairs in such a way that the right people will receive the right assets at the right time as efficiently and as inexpensively as possible.


6. What are the benefits of proper estate planning? Your estate planning documents, which will contain your clearly stated instructions to your executor, trustee, or other agent, are one tangible benefit. Avoidance of unnecessary fees, taxes, delays, and other burdens are some other tangible benefits. Peace of mind, freedom from anxiety, protection and security for your family, and a sense of accomplishment are a few of the many intangible benefits that you will experience through proper estate planning.


7. Is estate planning a process or a transaction? Estate planning is not a one-time transaction that starts and ends when you sign your first set of estate planning documents but it is an ongoing process. Any estate plan requires periodic updating and maintenance to adjust for changes in the laws or changes in your family or financial circumstances. We are here to help our clients ensure that their estate plans continue to operate as intended by them.


8. Why don't we skip the initial meeting because I already know which documents I need? You should enter the process with an open mind. You should not assume a solution to your needs such as the client who calls us and asks us how much we charge for a "simple will". In the medical field, they call that type of thinking "prescription without diagnosis" and it is a recipe for medical malpractice.


9. What is my role in the estate planning process? Your first responsibility is to remain committed to your goal of having a proper estate plan in place. Second, you should stay focused on the benefits of having a proper estate plan and leave all of the technical details of your estate plan to us. Third, you should avoid "over-educating" yourself about estate planning concepts, tools and techniques in order to avoid "information overload."


10. What is the attorney's role in the estate planning process? First, we want to get to know you, your family, your financial situation, and your goals. Second, we want to simplify the process for you, and explain your options to you in clear, understandable terms. Third, we will design, create and help you implement an estate plan that is responsive to your particular circumstances.