Whenever someone dies or loses capacity, costs are incurred dealing with their affairs. Those costs can be paid on the up front (in planning) or on the back end (in legal proceedings). Of course, front end costs tend to be substantially smaller than back end costs, and for this reason, everyone should undertake some form of estate planning.
The purpose of planning is to ensure a proper and cost-effective transfer of authority and/or assets upon the death or incapacity of a person. There are several options when it comes to estate planning:
- One can do nothing and let the legal system sort things out – which usually is the least cost-effective option in the long-term.
- One can prepare their own estate plan either by utilizing the statutory forms, or self-help books or software. These instruments tend to be effective in standard family situations, but are not recommended when there is likely to be a disputing family member, where there are unusual relationships or donees, or where there is a likelihood of incurring estate taxes. (Note: It is often difficult to get a lawyer to review these documents due to liability concerns.)
- One can hire a lawyer to prepare an estate plan. While the most expensive option, it also is the most likely to result in a thorough and effective plan which accomplishes your desires. Because most lawyers also have seen problems that can occur with poorly drafted estate plans or unusual relations and circumstances, a lawyer will be able to assist you in considering and addressing some of the important, yet subtle nuances of estate planning to ensure that your wishes are carried out in a cost-effective manner.
There are four basic instrument types in the most common estate plans: wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and advance health care directives.
If you have a question about your legal rights, or wish to speak to an attorney about your situation, please call us today at 510-663-9240, or contact us online to discuss your legal rights.