Today, it is impossible to put together even a simple estate plan without the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Why? Because estate planning laws vary greatly from state to state and these laws are extremely convoluted and constantly changing.
One wrong word, one missing signature, or one procedure not followed to the letter of the law can partially or completely invalidate your Last Will, Revocable Living Trust, Advance Health Care Directive, Living Will, or Durable Power of Attorney.
Though attorney fees may feel expensive, they’re actually not when viewed in light of the service and protections provided. In fact, estate planning fees are best viewed as an investment, not an expense.
For example, the Attorney’s and Executor’s fee to probate (the court proceeding required to transfer title to property) an uncontested estate with a gross value of $150k is $11k. Similarly, for an estate worth $350k, the probate fees are $20k. Moreover, to probate an estate worth $600k the fees are $30k, for an estate worth $800k, the fees are $38k, and an estate worth $1 million would result in probate fees equally $46k.
In comparison, having an estate plan created by an estate planning attorney—which generally range from $3,000 to $6,000—not only equate to a substantial savings in probate fees, but allows you to control what happens after you pass away in a manner that is easier for your family. This includes the ability to proactively plan for your disability, pass on both assets and values to whom you want when you want, and ensures that the process of administering your estate is both easier for your loved one’s and less expensive.
With that in mind, here are 3 simple things you can do to keep the legal costs of setting up and maintaining your estate plan down:
Be Prepared: Before you meet with your estate planning attorney, do your homework. Understand what you own, what you owe, who you would like to inherit what, and who should be in charge of managing your estate if you become mentally incapacitated or after you die. Then, after your estate plan is up and running, to make changes to your estate plan, make a detailed list of what the possible changes should be and forward it to your attorney for comments and questions.
Keep it Simple: While a simple estate plan will be easy and straightforward for your attorney to draft and maintain, a complicated estate plan will be difficult and time consuming. This usually means that a complicated estate plan will cost more. Keeping it simple will not only help minimize the legal fees while you are alive, but also the costs of settling your estate after you die.
Join Your Attorney’s Estate Plan Maintenance Program: Many estate planning attorneys offer an annual estate plan maintenance program for their clients at a reasonable cost. This program ensures that your estate plan is kept up to date each and every year. This includes updates to your estate plan due to changes in the law, your life circumstances, your values, objectives, and assets. Estate plans only remain effective when they’re up to date. A well-run maintenance program ensures that both your documents and the funding of your assets remain current, which results in a plan that carries out your desires when needed.
If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.