FAQs

I have all of my assets in joint tenancy, so I don't need a will, right?
Assets held in joint tenancy are non-probate assets in that they pass to the joint tenant outside of a will or trust. However, titling your assets in joint tenancy is not always a good estate planning tool. First, the joint tenant named may not be your intended recipient. Second, adding a joint tenant to your assets is considered a gift and could trigger gift tax. Third, adding a joint tenant allows them (and their creditors) full access to your assets during your life. I would suggest seeking legal advice before re-titling any asset into joint tenancy.

When should I start my estate plan?
You can only implement an estate plan while you are alive and have legal capacity to enter into a contract. Every adult needs an estate plan, however simple it may be.

Can I draft my own will online?
It is easy to be attracted to a claim that you can save time and money by drafting your own will with a fill-in-the-blank kit. I would advise any buyer to beware, because these programs use boilerplate drafting forms not suitable for everyone's particular situation. It is unlikely that you will receive a will that accomplishes all your objectives. It may cost you and your family more in the long run in the event of disability or death with a poorly drafted estate plan.

How much should I pay for my estate plan?
This decision is too important to look for the cheapest plan you can get. Your estate plan will likely have a large effect on your family's lives and well-being. Some of the factors you should consider in choosing an attorney are: main practice area, communication skills, and experience. Cost of your estate plan will also vary based on the type of documents your estate plan consists of (trust vs. will).

When should I update my estate plan?
Generally you should review your estate plan every two to five years, or sooner if there has been a change in your personal situation. Events which warrant a review of your estate plan include: change in financial status, divorce, birth or death of fiduciary or beneficiary, purchase or sale of business, move to a new state, change in lives of fiduciary or beneficiary.

How should I choose an estate planning attorney or firm?
A comprehensive estate plan is more than simply drafting a will. Estate planning also minimizes potential taxes and fees, sets up contingency plans to make sure your wishes are followed, and allows for planning of your health care treatment. On the financial side, a good estate plan coordinates what will happen with your assets including your home, investments, life insurance, retirement account, and other property in the event you became disabled or upon your death.

Only an attorney who regularly practices in the fields of wills, trusts, probate and estate planning is able to provide you with really sound legal advice as you prepare and execute your estate plan. When you consider an attorney to retain, ask about his or her experience in the estate planning field. Be alert for the following:

Accessibility Do you get prompt responses from phone calls or questions?

Communication Is the attorney's communication clear? Do you understand what estate plan is being recommended, how long it will take to implement, and what will be required of you?

Cost Are the fees and expenses made clear at your first meeting?

In today's economy, everyone is cost conscious. Though retaining an attorney to prepare your estate plan is an expense, very often the expense is a fraction of what you and your family would pay with no planning or poor planning. It also avoids the financial and emotional nightmares that can occur with a poorly drafted or no plan.