Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Are Your Resolutions Coming?

Resolutions: We Start the Year with Them, How Are Yours Coming?

One of the most common New Year's Resolutions is to finally do a Will or estate plan. Because of this, there is always an uptick in calls I receive from people with questions about Wills. Here are several of the more common recent questions with my responses, maybe you've thought about similar questions too.

1. How much do Wills cost?

This question is more complex than you may think since each Will and each client is different. There are many different kinds and varieties of Wills, each one, if done properly, is custom designed for each client. The only way to learn about the costs of a Will or estate plan is to have an estate planning assessment with an attorney who specializes in estate planning. This assessment meeting should be low cost and you should receive credit for the cost of the meeting against the fee for doing the Will.

2. Can't I just do my own Will on the internet?

As many of you know already, I have written several articles on this very topic! Yes, you can do your own Will, but in most cases, you will be disappointed with the result. The reason that internet and fill-in-the-blank Wills don't work is that they are not designed for any one person. They are generic and non-specific, the reason they can apply to everyone is that they don't apply to anyone!

Additionally, do it yourself documents carry legal consequences that can create traps for you and your family. For the most part, you will be better protected and your family will be safer if you have your documents prepared for you by a qualified attorney who specializes in estate planning.

3. Is a Will enough or do I need more?

A Will alone is never enough for ANY client. This is because your Will is valid only if you die. Your Will does NOT apply if you are sick, or become disabled or incapacitated. This is why I recommend that every client add the following documents, at a minimum: a)Durable Financial Power of Attorney; b)Durable Medical or Health Care Power of Attorney; and c)Living Will. These additional documents are necessary to protect you if you are incapacitated because your Will does nothing while you are alive.

4. I have a Will already, how do I know if it is current?

Any Will or estate planning document should be reviewed periodically. You should plan on doing a review with your attorney every two years, or if something significant happens in your life. Examples include: births, deaths, divorces, marriages, moving to another State, changing careers etc. The best way to think about such changes is if the change is significant, it's time to review your Will.

Additionally, the laws change from time to time and these changes can cause potential problems with your documents. If you read or see something about changes in the law, or receive a notice from your lawyer about them, then it's time to schedule a review meeting.

If you have a question not addressed here, or simply want to join our conversation about Wills and estate planning, just let me know, all questions are welcome!

Thank you for your interest!

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

You've Resolved to Get Your Will Done, Great! Now What? 4 Steps to Follow Now

You've Resolved to Get Your Will & Estate Plan Done-Now What? Here are the 4 Steps to Follow to Get the Job Done

New years are great for resolutions and one of the most popular ones is the decision to finally complete your Will and estate plan. But how do you get started and what steps do you take? Here are the steps to consider to make sure you get the job done right and on time.

1. Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney.

Use someone who specializes in estate planning. There are articles below about how to select the right attorney for you and your family. Do a thorough initial meeting. I call this the Estate Planning Assessment. Leave with a clear idea of what you should do next.

2. Follow up by proceeding with your plan.

It won't help to get the recommendations of the expert and then to not followup. So after you have the recommendations, proceed by scheduling whatever meetings are necessary to complete your plan. You should be complete in several days or just weeks depending on your particular situation.

3. After you sign your plan and all documents, complete your titling and beneficiary designations.

Completing your Will and estate plan is great, but those documents won't work as designed if you have titles and beneficiary designations that are not linked to and synchronized with your plan. This step is critical to your plan working properly.

4. Remember to review your plan periodically.

Even the best plans need some periodic attention. Laws change, family situations change and our assets change. By doing periodic reviews, you can keep everything current and up to date.

By following these four steps, you can protect yourself and your family with the proper estate plan and Will. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

Bernie Greenberg