First, imagine what the ideal situation would be for your family at your death. How would your family interact? What would your family members do?
Next, imagine your family after your death, but this time, what do you think will actually happen? Will they be thinking about you, or will they be thinking about their inheritance? Will they be angry at their siblings? Will they be angry at you? Will they be frustrated by trying to settle your estate?
Does your ideal situation live up to what you think will actually happen? If you are honest with yourself, and if you understand the corrosive effect of money on families, you will see that there is a gap between your ideal situation and what will probably happen.
Understanding and internalizing that there is this gap is the first step. The next step is to fix it: Think, Learn, Talk, Plan, Organize.
Why are you doing estate planning? What do you want? What are your goals?
Learn about what actually happens at your death or incapacity.
Talk to your family now about their expectations and tell them about your current plans and goals.
Get legal documents that will actually do what you want them to do.
Organize your financial and personal affairs now.
On your own, this process takes a lot of time and work. I can guide you through this process.
The Legal Foundation of Your Plan
The legal documents I create for you will be based on your Goals, your Family, and your Finances.
Your Goals. Your values, goals and beliefs have a significant impact on how we draft your will or living trust. Your decisions on end-of-life care are affected by your current health, your religious beliefs, and your personal values.
Your Family. Your relationships with your family and their relationships with each other should dictate how your legal documents should be drafted.
Your Finances. The very best legal documents are undermined by ignoring your financial situation. For example, incorrect beneficiary designations on non-probate assets have unintended and possibly disastrous consequences. The investment strategy and tax treatment of your assets must also be addressed to make sure that your estate planning objectives are met. My financial expertise allows me to fix these issues and optimize the financial aspects of your estate plan.
Achieving your goals and wishes by addressing all 3 of these areas, rather than just the legal side, we have a greater likelihood of acheiving your goals, avoiding family conflicts, and facilitating a smooth transfer of your assets after death.
How is this truly different from what other attorneys do?
A good estate attorney will take your personal and financial considerations into account when drafting legal documents. However, these documents -- a Will, Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive -- cannot generally address key questions such as:
- What would you like to happen with your remains at your death?
- Who will take care of your pets? How can you make sure that your pets will be taken care of well?
- Does your beneficiary designation on your IRA, 401(k), or insurance policy undermine your will?
- Did you want your heirs to have to go through probate?
- Will your estate be subject to taxes: Washington State estate tax, federal estate tax, gift tax, income tax, or generation-skipping transfer tax? Do you want to avoid it?
- How will your heirs access your legal documents if you keep them in your safety deposit box?
- Will your guardian for your minor children be in charge of your children and their trust funds? Is this best?
- How will my family access my email, online photos, etc.? How would they close these accounts?
I will assist you with all of these issues.
- I will help you coordinate your life insurance and retirement plan beneficiary designations with your estate planning documents.
- I will tell you what information you should collect and include with your legal documents, how to best organize these documents, and to whom you should give them.
- I can discuss the pros and cons of funeral and memorial options and include your preferences in your estate plan.
- I can explain how best to distribute your tangible personal property (family heirlooms, furniture, etc.).
- I will start an estate planning folder for you, containing your essential personal information, estate planning documents, and practical information that will guide your family in the event of your death or incapacity.
How much more expensive is this type of planning?
It's not. My prices are comparable or less than other attorneys. Why? I refuse to let you compromise on the quality of your estate planning. I can only do this by making the cost a nonissue.
However, you must be willing to commit more of your time and effort to this process. I expect you to send me a completed intake form prior to our first meeting and to be emotionally and intellectually engaged throughout the process.
What does this include and what will it cost?
It depends. Everyone should have a Health Care Directive and a Power of Attorney. Beyond that, I can only provide some basic rules of thumb as to what you need. For clients who wish to avoid complexity at all costs or who have combined estates under $2 million, a will may be ideal. For clients who wish to make the transition at their death as easy as possible for their family, a revocable living trust might suit them better. For clients with minor children, a trust should also be built into their will or revocable living trust. For clients with estates larger than $2 million, there are a number of more complex techniques that can be used. Here is a chart that will give you an idea of the cost: