Frequently Asked Questions: Estate Planning
You certainly do! Your estate consists of whatever you own: your car, your home, your bank accounts, your personal belongings, your insurance policies. You probably own more than you think you do.
A basic modern estate plan consists of:
- A Will, which directs the distribution of your assets after your death;
- A Durable Power of Attorney, which appoints someone to manage your finances for you if you're not able to do so yourself;
- A Power of Attorney for Health Care (also called a Health Care Proxy), which appoints someone to make your medical decisions for you if you can't do so yourself; and
- A HIPAA Health Insurance Privacy Release Form, which allows you to authorize one or more people to have access to your medical records.
For some people, additional documents such as Trusts, Letters of Burial Instructions, and Nominations of Guardianship may be appropriate. Estate Plans may vary widely, since they depend on your goals and your wishes.
At Posteri Legal, the estate planning process has three basic components. First, you will have an initial meeting during which we will discuss your goals and your concerns. Second, you will review the drafts of your estate planning documents. This allows you to ask any questions you have before signing your final documents, and may involve an additional meeting. Third, you will sign your documents at a signing conference during which we will discuss any final steps you need to take, such as updating your beneficiary designations.
An attorney is best able to ensure that your wishes are honored. Just look at any of those do-it-yourself kits and read the disclosures in small print. Those kits do not offer you legal expertise and they don't even promise to work. No kit will replace an attorney's expertise. Furthermore, an attorney can work with your financial planner, your accountant, and your insurance agent to ensure that your finances are in line with your estate plan. You are not paying for a pile of paper- you are paying for the attorney’s knowledge and experience. You won’t find that in a kit.
A trust allows one person (the trustee) to hold property for the benefit of another person (the beneficiary). It can be used for probate avoidance, asset protection, and tax planning. It is also commonly used to manage assets for minor children in the event that a parent dies.
Most estate plans are done on a flat fee basis. You will be given a quote at our initial meeting that includes all attorney fees, notary fees, and meetings. The flat fee also includes answers to all your questions via phone or email. For more information, see our Fees & Payment page.