One thing that frequently surprises people when I sit with them for the first time to discuss estate planning is the number of approaches and options available to them. This can seem truly overwhelming, but really does not need to be.
The first thing to understand about speaking with an attorney about an estate plan is that the attorney is there to help. Our job is to help you understand your options, make recommendations, and create a plan that is the best fit for you, the client. That said, an attorney building an estate plan is creating an extremely personal and important plan for you and do need you involved in the decision-making to ensure the final plan reflects your desires.
In an initial conversation, I find it helpful to break down the estate planning approach into three categories: basic, intermediate, and complex.
- A basic plan ensures your estate is distributed according to your desires and requires very little maintenance during your life but will require probate and provide little or no protection for your assets.
- Intermediate estate plans do take more work to set up and maintain but will require less [or possibly no] probate and can reduce costs after death.
- Complex estate planning can require a substantial amount of work but allows you to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes and can truly maximize the protection of those assets.
Generally speaking, the more you have the more complex an estate plan should be considered.
In any estate plan you should also be including things beyond a will or a trust. Other aspects of estate planning, such as PoAs, living wills, etc, are essential for everyone. These documents ensure that you and your family are protected if you become seriously ill by providing direction while you are still alive.
Your attorney is there to help you understand the complex aspects of estate planning. Not everyone needs a complex estate plan but anyone can benefit from the knowledge of an attorney that practices in estate planning.