Plans are nothing. Planning is everything. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
I don’t like to gamble, but I will bet most people fear the process of creating an estate plan, which is why many people don’t have one. Don’t worry, the State of California has a backup for those of us who haven’t put an estate plan in place. It might not be the plan of their choice, but the Probate Court will develop a solution…over the course of a year or two.
What many don’t know is that most estate planning attorneys do not charge for the initial meeting where clients can learn about what is involved in “estate planning”. The hardest thing for most people is making the appointment. After all, this involves discussing something most of us don’t want to consider–what happens after we are no longer around.
Here are the top questions many people have about estate planning:
1. Is a Will sufficient? A Will is better than nothing as it allows one to direct who is to be in charge of managing the estate and how the assets are to be distributed. However, a Will covering real estate or financial assets that are in excess of $150,000 will still need to be handled by the Probate Court.
2. Do I need a Trust? A trust is highly recommended if you own real estate or if your financial assets are in excess of $150,000. Why? Because a trust can be handled privately and completely avoid the Probate Court system.
3. What is so bad about Probate? Like many laws, Probate starts with great intentions. Unfortunately, the Probate rules, technicalities, personalities, systems and methods take on a life of their own. The result is slow, frustrating and an expensive process for the heirs. A trust, on the hand, can be administered much faster and at substantially reduced costs to the estate.
4. What else is needed in a Trust Estate Plan? A good estate plan will include a variety of interrelated documents: Trust, Pour-over Will, Assignment of Assets, Grant Deeds, Certification of Trust, Durable Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directive and other documents to help make the job easier for successor trustees.
5. How much does a complete Trust Estate Plan cost? The cost spectrum is pretty broad. It is possible to build your own on the Internet for a very low cost; the use of a professional will depend on a few factors, but many have fixed fees for the plan. Just like with everything else, it pays shop around. It is acceptable to call and ask for pricing an I encourage you to do so.