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 a Last Will and Testament, Revocable Living Trust, Advance Medical 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.
All that being said, here are 3 simple things you can do to keep the legal costs of setting up and maintaining your estate plan down:
1. 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.
2. Keep it Simple – While a simple estate plan will be easy and straightforward for your attorney to draft and maintain, a complicated estate plan could 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. Also, think about the importance of protecting your legacy that will be inherited by your beneficiaries from their creditors, lawsuits and potential failed marriages. This is where counseling from an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable.
3. Keep your Plans Updated – Some estate planning attorneys offer a regular estate plan tune-up for their clients at a reasonable fee. This will force you to think about your estate plan once a year or every few years depending on the attorney’s recommendation. Maintenance programs help you keep your estate plan current with changes in the law, your attorney’s experiences, and your life, family, goals, and assets. Estate plans only work if they’re up to date.