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Estate Planning

Life and the law can be uncertain - and so can dying and the law. However, it is much better to die, having planned one's estate, than to die without having done so.  Everything one owns when one dies is going somewhere and somehow. Estate planning is the process of determining what one wants to happen and deciding how to make it happen as smoothly and efficiently as possible (preferably without probate). It seems to be human nature to procrastinate about estate planning, probably finding it unpleasant to think about dying, or as if thinking about dying might bring death and its complications closer.  On the contrary, what one is not prepared for is what one needs to be aware of and address; and, one will feel a sense of accomplishment and peace after completing estate planning.

Another reason I hear for delay supposes that one doesn’t have or own enough to justify the need for a plan, or that a small estate can pass without probate.  Wrong.  No one can get to the $300 in a deceased's checking account without some sort of probate, which will likely cost more than such a balance.  Unless one intends MegaBank to keep the money or send it to the State or pay it to your lawyer friend, one could title the checking account, and one's other assets for that matter, so it will pass to whomever one chooses, without probate and at absolutely no cost or expense at time of death. Although the complexity of an estate plan may be affected by the size of the estate, it is mostly the clients’ wishes that dictate the simplicity or complexity involved. The older (and wiser) I become, the more I encourage my clients to keep things as simple as possible. 

In less than an hour, I can explain the process and ask questions and make note of the details necessary to formulate the appropriate estate plan from which I prepare the proposed documentation to send to the client for review, followed by a phone call or conference to address any questions and make any changes to the documents, which are then formally executed in my office, only after making sure the client has read and understands everything. All documentation is written in English and intended to be read and understood by the client and family without necessity of a legal “interpreter”.

The task of estate planning is also made easier by remembering that generally, everything I do can be easily revised if need be in the future. It would be a far greater task if we had to make decisions and plans cast in stone. Extra care is always taken to make sure the client remains in full control of their affairs, assets and decisions. If there should arise a circumstance that calls for giving up any of that control or power to change, I will wave red flags and take extra care to make sure the client is certain of the appropriateness of such action before allowing it to proceed.

"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."

Thomas Jefferson


Estate Planning Documents - Truts & Estates
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