Determine Your Estate Needs
When planning your estate, one of the first steps is to figure out what you need. Most people can figure out what they need by themselves. An attorney or financial planner can also provide some direction. Our estate planning video may also help you determine your needs. In a nutshell, a basic estate plan will have:
An advance health care directive gives a person the power to make medical decisions in if you cannot make those decisions on your own. For example, if you were in a temporary coma, you would not be able to tell your doctors what medical treatments you approve or disapprove. On the other hand, a durable power of attorney gives someone control over financial decisions if you are incapacitated. Lastly, a will described who you want to receive your assets when you die. Wills need to be individually tailored to a person’s specific situation, and so they are more expensive to prepare. For people who own real property, they often opt for a living trust instead of a will to avoid probate. This article goes into more detail about the differences between a will and a living trust. Although a living trust is a bit more complicated, a legal document assistant can easily prepare these documents using attorney estate software. A People’s Choice uses the same estate software used by many attorneys, giving you the same end product for a fraction of the cost.
Create Your Estate Plan Using a Legal Document Preparer
As mentioned above, a great way to save money preparing your estate is to use the services of a legal document preparer. California Estate planning does not require you to hire a large fancy law firm. A legal document preparer using attorney estate software will give similar results like an attorney.
Do your homework. First, call around different legal document preparers and ask for pricing. This lets the legal document preparer know that you are sensitive about fees. Find out if the legal document preparer charges an hourly rate or a flat fee. If the legal document preparer charges a flat price, make sure you understand what they include in the fee.
A People’s Choice offers complete, flat-fee estate packages for couples and individuals. Our packages include the same documents attorneys prepare for their estate clients. Remember, however, when working with a legal document preparer, make sure you are certain with your decisions. Keep in mind, a legal document assistant cannot give you legal advice.
Since legal document preparers charge between $400 – $700 for basic estate documents, it is tempting for people to try to do it themselves using programs such as LegalZoom or Willmaker. After all, these services only charge a few hundred dollars to set up a basic estate plan. California even has a statutory fill-in-the-blank will form. So you ask yourself, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how often our office has seen the ramifications of defective estate planning by customers using these types of services, including the statutory will form! Incorrect or conflicting documents or documents that are improperly executed result in unnecessary, expensive and lengthy probate cases. Based on our experiences, we would not recommend anything short of estate plans drafted by a legal document preparer or an attorney. Sadly, we have seen how those DIY estate plans are unnecessary tied up in probate for months.
Quality estate planning is not that more expensive than a poorly drafted plan. Often you hear people say “you get what you pay for.” This is profoundly true when you plan your estate. A poorly written DIY will could cost your heirs huge frustrations and thousands of dollars more in the long run.
Contact A People’s Choice for more information about our affordable estate planning services.
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