Choosing an estate planning attorney is a big decision. Follow these nine steps to ensure that your estate is executed the way you want it to be.
1. How much do you charge?
Estate planning attorneys may charge a flat fee, or they may charge by the hour, so you should ask how you will be billed upfront. Flat fees may not cover all of the services the attorney can provide, so be sure to inquire if any services will cost extra before you engage them.
2. Do you have an update program?
Some estate planning attorneys complete the necessary paperwork and consider their job completed. This could turn into a problem for you if laws change before you pass away. Ask if you can be informed of any legal changes as they happen to ensure that your plan is executed correctly.
3. How much experience do you have?
Experienced estate attorneys have an opportunity to fine-tune the paperwork they provide after seeing it in action for past clients. You won’t be around to personally supervise the execution of your paperwork, so an experienced attorney is a great way to guarantee that it works as intended.
4. Will you help me set up a revocable living trust?
Assets must be transferred to a revocable living trust before you die in order to be distributed according to your final wishes. The transfer process is actually pretty complicated, so it may be worth paying a little extra for an attorney who will guide you through every step of the process.
5. Whom should I appoint as Power of Attorney?
Whoever you grant Power of Attorney to will have unrestricted access to your finances, so they should not have any financial troubles of their own. Ideally, your Power of Attorney will have financial management skills to keep everything in order.
6. Are there any estate taxes to consider?
Estate taxes will vary by state, so it is best to engage a local attorney familiar with your local laws. Taxes should always be considered when deciding who to give what.
7. Who should I appoint in my Advance Directive?
Your Advance Directive dictates who will make medical decisions on your behalf when you cannot, as well as an alternate if the first person is unavailable. Both individuals should be people you can trust to act according to your wishes.
8. Who will get any assets I do not specify a recipient for?
In general, any property with another name on the account will go to that individual, and will not get split up between all of your beneficiaries. Otherwise, the property will be split evenly between your closest living family members, even those you did not have a relationship with. If you do not want your assets distributed in this way, an estate planning attorney is your only recourse.
9. What are the consequences of placing my child’s name on my account?
Any assets at least partially in your child’s name are fair game if they become involved in a divorce or debt settlement. If you place their name on your account, those funds could be lost to you through no fault of your own.
The attorneys at OC Elder Law try our best to keep the public informed about issues related to elder law and estate planning in Orange County, Corona, and Long Beach. If you have a topic you would like us to cover in our blog, contact us today!