We are going to ask you what your overall goal is. Do you want your kids to get everything in one fell swoop? We want to know if you want to create a trust and restrict your children on certain things, which we call dead hand control. We are going to talk about what happens if either client were to die: will the other one plan on remarrying? If so, we want to put in some gold digger provisions. We are going to ask probably over 100 questions. We are just going to do a lot of exploring and find out what it is you want. Some people come into our office and know exactly what they want to do. They’ll say. “Johnny has some issues,” or “Mary has a disability so we’ve got to protect her from losing her government benefits.” These clients know what they want.
Sometimes we have clients come in, and they’ve bought houses for their kids, and they just don’t want their children’s spouses, in the event of a divorce, to get half of those houses. There are lots of different things that can happen, so it’ll be real exploratory when we ask hundreds of questions. Have your mind on it. If you don’t know what you are going to do and are not sure, that’s great too because we’ll ask you, “What do you think about this?” and give you suggestions. We’ll offer examples of other clients’ situations and ask if that is what you want to do. So ultimately, the client makes the decision; we are just there to find the right route to get their decision done.
How Long Does It Typically Take To Set Up A Proper Estate Plan?
Usually, it takes two to three weeks, and the reason for that is because we need to do it correctly and make sure we have all the parts in place. So typically, once we have that first initial meeting and figure out what we are going to do, it takes two to three weeks to get everything accomplished and set up properly. Sometimes people come in and are motivated because they are going on a cruise or they have a surgery scheduled, so there is some life event that they are worried about. In that case, we can usually put together something in 24 to 48 hours.
It’s not going to be a great estate plan, and it will not be perfect, but it will be kind of a patchwork job to get them through so they are not worried during their surgery or on their cruise. It’ll be like a Band-Aid in place, so to speak, but to get that wound healed completely, that’s going to take two or three weeks.
Is It Expensive To Create An Estate Plan?
It really depends on the amount of assets you have and the goals that you have in terms of what you are trying to accomplish. Estate plans can be relatively inexpensive, for example, $600 for a will and two powers of attorney: a healthcare power of attorney and a general durable power of attorney. Or they can be extremely complex, including foundations, legacy trusts and cascading trusts. Perhaps there is a family business involved: those can cost $6,000 to $10,000. It really just depends on your net worth. Are we going to protect it from the government? What is the strategy that we are going to implement? Some people think they need an extensive strategy, but they don’t. It really depends on where they are and what the current estate tax and gift taxes are that we are working with.
Absolutely, and the reason is that if you don’t, you are ignoring the fact that anything can happen in life. People can lose jobs, and they can have severe medical expenses, which can cause them to go into bankruptcy. If you don’t plan for that, then you don’t realize that life can happen to anybody: death, divorce, bankruptcy, disability. According to statistics, you are 9 times more likely to become disabled than you are to actually die. That’s because healthcare and vehicles have improved, so the ability to sustain life is so much better that you are just more likely to become disabled and not die. This means that we’ve got to plan for disability; we have to talk about those things, and the best time to do that is when we contemplate an estate plan for you.
When we are sitting down in our strategy session and discussing it, that’s the best time to bring it up and plan what will happen. How is this estate plan going to be triggered and what’s going to go into effect if you were to become disabled, a bankruptcy were to happen or if you were to get divorced? If we don’t plan for those things, we are being just like ostriches and putting our heads in the sand, which is never good for anyone.
Who Should Be Involved In That First Initial Meeting?
Usually if we have a couple, we want both of them there. If it’s just a single person, of course, we want them there. Those are the people that really matter. It’s their wealth and their assets. If they are in their 80s or 90s and maybe have some dementia or memory issues, typically, one of their kids is helping them, or perhaps they have a home healthcare person, who would be there to assist them. If there is a power of attorney that’s already been issued, we’d want that person there.
If there is a guardianship that’s in place, we want the guardian or conservator there as well. So it really just depends on who is involved in the process, but those are the people that we’d really like to meet with first.
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