Why "What Does It Cost?" Should Be Your Last Question
The first question many people ask me when they are looking for an Estate Planning Attorney is "I need an Estate Plan; What Does it Cost?"
This is like saying "I am looking to buy a car; what does it cost?" As you can imagine, no one can answer this question without lots of other information about your needs and desires before you can get an informed answer. The same thing is true when you are looking for an Estate Plan!
In fact, if an Estate Planning attorney answers this question without first discussing your needs, you are likely to receive a "one size fits all" type of plan, where virtually every client gets the same plan with different names and few differences.
The danger you face :with a one size fits all" plan is that the plan provided might eventually cost you much more, both in dollars and in grief, than a plan from the attorney who would not answer this question without first exploring your Estate Planning needs and desires.
Before we provide you with a quote for the plan you need, we first need to discuss several different issues with you in the course of a consultation in which we discuss:
- your individual concerns (e.g., religious desires and charitable concerns);
- your family situation (i.e, married or single, prior marriages, children from prior spouses or non-spouses);
- ownership or control of businesses, if any;
- the needs of your spouse, children or other heirs (e.g., long term care needs for a spouse, special needs children, spendthrift children, etc.);
- the type of assets you own outright or as a partner (e.g., real estate, interests in an LLC, stocks, annuities, insurance);
- citizenship issues (e.g., if you, your spouse or your children or someone you want to act as a successor Trustee are not U.S.citizens);
- ownership of foreign property;
- the existence of a prior trust, Will or other type of Estate Plan;
- the location of your assets (e.g., real property in a foreign country or in a State other than California);
- your concerns about and potential need for long term care;
- the personalities of your spouse, children or other heirs (e.g., is there a stepchild who might be inclined to contest your decisions?);
- your need and/or desire for asset protection for yourself, your spouse and your children or other heirs; and
- your need for and concern about estate and gift taxes.
Each of these situations requires a different approach to your Estate Plan.
For example, if you or your spouse is not a U.S. citizen, the non-citizen spouse is not entitled to the same exemption from Gift and Estate Taxes, which means that you have to include a special type of Trust in your Estate Plan for that individual. If you have a child who is a spendthrift or who is already receiving governmental benefits, we would include special sub-trusts for them. If you are concerned that a child or other heir might contest the bequest you want to make to them, we will design provisions to make it more likely that he or she will not do so.
Consequently, when you are shopping for an Estate Plan, you need to sit down with an Estate Planning attorney for 30 minutes to an hour to discuss your own particular needs so that the attorney can provide you with an informed explanation of what you need to accomplish your goals.
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San Jose, CA 95113
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