Estimates are that 70% of Americans die intestate – that is without any estate planning whatsoever. Here are my top three questions and answers for estate planning:
1. Why should I do any estate planning?
If you don’t have an estate plan, the government has one for you, through a process known as intestate succession. In other words, there are state laws that determine who will receive your estate, even if you would have disagreed with that result.
2. Why should I have an attorney draw up my estate plan when I can have a paralegal, online service or a typing service do it cheaper?
First, all of these services are not “legal services.” Ask them if they can provide legal services, and they will all admit they are not providing them. The initial cost of preparing documents should not be the only consideration. A poorly prepared estate plan may eventually prove to be much more costly than a properly prepared estate plan. Problems with the estate plan may not become apparent until after the person who signed the estate plan has died. At that point it is probably too late to correct the problems and the result could be extended and costly litigation.
It is also a violation of state law for paralegals to give legal advice. Due to the complexity of a will or trust, questions are bound to arise about the meaning of various parts of the document. Non-lawyers who attempt to answer these questions are breaking the law and could be providing inaccurate information.
3. I will be dead anyway, so what does it matter?
Yes. People actually say this. My answer goes two ways – first, that is cruel and callous to the people you love, care for or are responsible for. Shame on you for thinking so little of those who will be grieving your loss, and trying to clean up your mess at the same time. Second, estate planning also takes into consideration the care and disposition of your assets (and you) while you are still alive, but unable to make your own decisions. Sounds a bit more important now, doesn’t it?
Seriously, estate planning is something any savvy individual should have done. It is complicated and deals with a touchy subject, but it doesn’t have to be hard. We make it easy. Ask us how. Then get it done for those you love.