Estate planning is a task that’s extremely necessary but often avoided or forgotten. Thinking about the future and what might happen after passing away is uncomfortable, and something many people don’t want to have to think about. However, if you don’t, you stand to lose a lot of your assets, and you will leave a number of headaches and legal battles for your loved ones, especially if they want to keep some of the things you own.
There are many different options available for protecting your assets, arranging for beneficiaries, and even creating contingency plans in the event you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes yourself. Some of these options will be right for you, some won’t be. An experienced attorney can help you sort through them and develop a plan that meets your needs and your goals. However, this isn’t necessarily an inexpensive venture, as you’ll need to meet with an attorney frequently, have numerous phone conversations, and trust them to write several legal documents, all of which take time, and therefore add up to a rather substantial cost. If you don’t know whether or not you can afford these costs, there are a few ways you can keep fees down while still getting high-quality planning assistance.
UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU NEED
Do you know what estate planning law entails? If not, you might want to find a few resources that can briefly explain different concepts in order to help you understand the basics before moving forward. What things are necessary for everyone? What are some things that you may not need? What are some things you don’t qualify for due to not possessing a certain type of asset? Knowing these things in advance can help you avoid wasting money on planning processes you don’t actually need.
Just about everyone will need an advance healthcare directive, a durable power of attorney, and a will detailing their last wishes. However, you may also wish to consider forming a trust. Figure out what you want ahead of time and you’ll make your attorney’s job easier.
KNOW HOW YOUR ATTORNEY CHARGES YOU
Attorneys make the estate planning process simple, and a good attorney can make you comfortable throughout the process. However, you need to remember that time is money, and if you’re being charged by the hour, this adds up quick. Before starting the process, find out how your attorney bills for their services: are you paying by the hour? If so, how much are you paying per hour? How long will your various needs take to complete? Does your attorney offer a free consultation?
Some attorneys also choose to charge a flat fee per service performed. The advantages of this is that it allows you to control the cost of your estate planning matter, and predict how much will need to come out of your pocket. However, there are usually terms on these fees that you should know about or you might end up surprised when the bill arrives in the mail. If you’re paying a flat fee, know how long you have to complete your case, how many changes you might be allowed, or the number of meetings you are entitled to at the listed price. Also, flat fees are rarely all-inclusive, so find out how many documents are included in the fee.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT ATTORNEY
The cheapest attorney isn’t always the right one. If you’re going to spend a little more on one aspect of your legal matter, you absolutely should make sure you retain an attorney who has two things: experience and rapport. An attorney should have experience with the legal matter you are seeking; you wouldn’t call a plumber to fix your air conditioner, so why call a criminal lawyer to help you create an estate plan?
You should also be comfortable discussing serious family matters with your attorney, including relationships, finances, and more. If you withhold particular information because you aren’t comfortable, you could end up with a result that leaves holes in your plan, or possibly doesn’t protect and distribute your assets how you would like. If you aren’t comfortable with an attorney, you shouldn’t continue to go to them for estate planning matters.
If you’re just starting out in estate planning, you may have heard a few of the more common terms before, but you’re probably unaware of what exactly they all mean. What is a “will,” “trust,” “directive,” or “fiduciary?” These are all important terms you should be aware of, and knowing what they mean as well as a little bit about some of the more common processes can make your attorney’s job much easier. It can also help you formulate an idea of what your goals are, and your attorney can help adjust them in order to create the best possible plan for your future.
Once you have begun the process, your attorney may request that you bring certain things to them in future meetings. Having those things ready to go and easily accessible can make the process go by much faster and allow your attorney to work much more quickly. The more organized you are in your preparation, the easier you make your attorney’s job, and the easier their job is, the less cost-increasing time they have to spend on your case.
To learn more about estate planning issues, call the Atlanta low cost attorneys from the Justice Café at (888) 817-6610 to learn more about our services and our great $85 per hour services rate!