Estate Planning – Costs / Packages / What you should Know when you are getting started

17 Aug

#Wills  #What does a will cost? #What is an estate plan #What is an eldercare attorney?  #What is a trust?  #When should I have a will?  #What do I need to plan for my death?  #When do I need to make a will?  #Is it expensive to make a will?  #What is probate?

Estate Planning – When Do I need one and How much does it Cost?

Estate planning is something we like to put off – we do it for many reasons.  The first is we don’t think we are going to die for a long time and therefore don’t need to do an estate plan.  We also think it costs too much money or we don’t have enough in our “estate” to bother “will-ing” our stuff to anyone.

So WHEN do you need to have an estate plan?  Everyone really should have one, but if you have children, you need to name a guardian, if you are a senior, you should be making plans because of your age, and if you a decent amount of life insurance and/or assets, some people forget to include their life insurance amounts when they think about how much their estate is valued at.

If you are just worried about naming a guardian and/or don’t have many assets (this includes your life insurance amounts) – for example, let’s say you have under $100,000 total value of everything including life insurance, retirement funds, equity in your house, savings account values, cars, etc.  then it is probably fine to just do one of those legal zoom type documents.

If you have more than that, you may fall into one of two situations:

1)  you live paycheck to paycheck with very little extra funds to cover things like paying an attorney

2)  you don’t live that way and can afford to do an estate plan

In case #1, for a basic will, living will, health care POA, and durable POA (for finances) – one that is very “cookie cutter” but contains MANY more protections than one in legal zoom, can be done with an attorney for under $1000, most likely closer to $500.  I suggest doing the legal zoom version asap so that you have SOMETHING for now and start a fund where you put $20 (or whatever you can afford) in each month until you can afford to meet with an attorney to review the legal zoom copies and make changes, add protections, and update to a much better version.  It IS worth it.

The above is what we did and yes, our will was VERY basic and lacks many protections that we will get from meeting with a lawyer now.


In case #2, this requires more work, start interviewing (and going to a few of their free workshops) estate planning attorneys.  Do not get sucked into their high pressure sales tactics though.  I found a wonderful firm online that talked about how they were NOT cookie cutter and all these benefits that you were going to get (for extra cost) but it was worth it because it was personalized, etc.  Only to meet them in person and get the sales pitch instead of a personalized approach from them.  I promised I would tell you the cost, well her cost for the will and trust package was $6000, which she admits is a tad on the high side but worth it because it is not cookie cutter and you are getting all this extra.  However, upon further education, we began to realize that any of those protections she talked about are usually put in all wills and are pre-made by the firm.  If you want anything “personalized,” the lawyers have to write that from scratch and add that into the documents they already have ready to go for ALL clients.  This is time consuming and costly, so most don’t do it.   If I want Junior only to get his inheritance on Mondays (never any other day of the week because I have this thing for Mondays, I don’t, just giving a crazy example) then my non-cookie cutter lady at $6000 is not going to be able to do it.  So, you really need to know WHAT you are getting for your money.

I suggest you meet with a few attorneys with a list of questions after you have given thought to what you really want in your will.  Do you want a cookie cutter will or do you want to make specific provisions?  Personally, I want specific provisions since just giving my kids money on a “time table” (typical provisions) is not sufficient for me.  For you, that may be fine.

Attorney #2 that I met with was a single lady attorney who worked by herself with one office assistant and she charges $1500-$2000 for the standard provision will but without separate trusts.  However, she said that in our state, trusts for real estate were not needed and we only needed testamentary trusts (trusts within the will itself).  It will cost extra for the special provisions, however, I figure I can get the extra provisions and probably still not reach the $6000 level of first lady.

Another attorney charged $4500 for will/trust package for a friend in a different state, so you can get an idea of the cost for a typical will/trust package.  In most states, having trusts for real estate will be very helpful to avoid probate and are recommended.





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