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Essential Elements of Estate Planning: What does it cost? How do I know it will work?

April 1, 2010

Every estate plan which effectively passes property to your loved ones needs to address two very important issues:  First, you and your attorney must formulate a customized plan that addresses all the issues unique to your family, including farm succession issues, asset protection, minimizing taxes and expenses, and avoiding family conflict.  Second, you and your attorney must conduct regular reviews and updates of the plan to ensure that all of your issues are addressed by your plan.  Your estate plan needs to change over time as your life and family situation changes over time.  Even if you have the perfect estate plan today, it will fail to work properly at your death if the plan is not regularly updated.

Total Costs of Passing Property to Your Loved Ones

In order to minimize the costs of transferring your property at your death, you should have two very important discussions with your planning specialist.  One, how much will it cost to draft and put your plan in place.  Often, planning will involve not only preparation of a will, a trust or disability documents, but also will require new deeds and re-titling of assets.  Your attorney should tell you exactly what this will cost.

Two, how much will it cost my family when I pass away?  There are several different taxes and expenses which may be owing soon after your death.  Your initial estate planning design needs to consider the taxes to be paid by your estate.  Furthermore, your estate planning attorney will also charge your family a legal fee to represent your estate in probate court or administer your trust plan.  At the end of your initial meeting with the attorney, you should know how the attorney calculates these future fees.

Effective Planning Requires Updating and Maintenance

Once you have designed a customized plan which addresses all of your planning goals, your estate planning attorney needs to provide you with a process which allows your plan to be updated.  As the years pass, your family situation, planning goals, and assets are likely to change.  Your plan needs to be amended to account for those changes.  Additionally, new estate planning techniques or law changes will occur which will require an update to your estate plan.  Ignoring your plan will likely cause your plan to be ineffective at your death.

Contact an estate planning specialist that will customize a plan that addresses all of your planning goals, minimizes taxes and expenses paid by your family, and will have a process in place to update your plan as necessary.  Your plan needs to be effective, not today, but later on when your family will be relying on your planning.

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