Use a Professional for Your Wills and Trusts
The other day, a very savvy businesswoman I’ve gotten to know came in to take advantage of my no-charge review of existing estate plans. To my surprise, she brought in a do-it-yourself Last Will and Testament. It named an executor and said who would get her estate, just as a will should. But her Will was completely invalid because it wasn’t properly executed. Besides that, she did not have the other documents needed to assure that if she was incapacitated, someone could step in to care for her and for her finances.
Have you ever heard the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know”? We all have things we don’t know, and we don’t even know that we don’t know we don’t know them! A quote from Confucius says, “True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.”
I’ve told the story of my husband’s attempts at being an electrician before, but it bears repeating. Andy is a great handyman. It’s wonderful to be able to ask him to fix things around the house and know he will do it right. When we first moved to our home in Phoenix, he replaced many of the appliances himself, including a cool new stove top. It was great! Well, it was great until he put in the new vent hood. I stood across the kitchen watching him do his usual good job, then walked over to the door for a better vantage point. As he connected the electricity to it, suddenly the light bulbs on the hood burst and the fan spun across the room to hit the cabinet – right where I had been standing not 30 seconds before. “Honey,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm. “Do you think it’s time to call an electrician?”
We were lucky. No one got electrocuted due to the error, and I didn’t get my head shaved by the fan. But we definitely came to the conclusion that there are times when it is best to call in the experts.
The same is true when you are putting together an estate plan. If you don’t do the job right and you don’t know you’ve made a mistake, it may well be too late before you – or more likely, your family – finds out. Without proper estate planning, your family may end up in court. If you are alive and incapacitated, they may be required to take you to court to declare you unable to handle your affairs and appoint a guardian and conservator. That is a public proceeding. If you are deceased, they will likely have to file a probate to transfer your property to your heirs. If your assets will legally go to minor children, the court will be involved in the expenditures until the children turn 18 – at which point the children get all the money turned over to them to handle. All of these things will cause major headaches and great expense for your loved ones.
Experts know things we don’t. As an attorney who focuses my practice on estate planning, I know what to recommend for you based on your situation, your beneficiaries, your assets and your goals and dreams. You may not know all the ways you can benefit your heirs, or all the ways you can cause problems for them with a poorly drafted (or invalid) will or trust.
For instance, did you know that with the right estate plan, you can:
- Rest assured that your family or friends can step in if an emergency happens to take care of your health and of your finances.
- Avoid probate and quickly transfer your property.
- Minimize taxes, including capital gains taxes.
- Provide a guardian for your minor children.
- Designate that a Trustee governs the money spent on your children.
- Protect the estate from your beneficiaries’ creditors and from their divorcing spouses.
- Assure that your IRA continues to grow tax deferred to provide for your beneficiaries in their retirement.
The cost for a guardian or conservatorship if you are incapacitated (or for your minor children if you are gone) and the cost of a probate on your death most often far exceeds the price of an estate plan put in place while you are alive and well. The toll on your family and heirs is something we can’t put a price on. Putting the right plan in place using an estate planning attorney will save your family heartache and expense. Knowing they will thank you for making it easier on them – that’s priceless!
To schedule a no charge consultation or review, please call my office at 602-375-6752 or visit my website and fill out our form at http://libbybanks.com/schedule-an-estate-planning-meeting/.