Estate Plan Basics
A basic estate plan includes an advance health care directive, durable power of attorney, and a will. An advance health care directive gives a person the power to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney gives a person the power control your finances in that event. As you might imagine, cutting corners here is a bad idea unless you know your inexpensive estate planning strategies are sound. A People’s Choice can help you evaluate and implement the best options for you.
You may obtain documents for advance health care directives for free through local agencies on aging. The California Department of Justice also offers health care directive forms as a free download. Once you locate these items, you will see that you can also obtain a similarly basic durable power of attorney form. However, preparing and properly signing these documents can be tricky, as with other estate documents.
Essential Things to Know About Estate Planning
A will dictates who will get your possessions and who will have custody of your children in the event of your death. Creating a will by yourself using a free service may seem like an inexpensive estate planning option, but be sure to do it right! Many online options have limited offerings and do not highlight your errors. You can even unintentionally disinherit an intended heir! Still, having any will is better than no will at all. These online programs may be fine if you have few assets and only have one intended beneficiary. For anything more complex, though, you should speak to a professional. Keep in mind, however, that a will does not avoid probate.
A trust is similar to a will but avoids probate. Creating a trust is an inexpensive estate planning option for individuals or couples with larger estates or who own a home. What’s a large estate? Generally speaking, California has options which allow families to settle estates valued less than $150,000 without the need for probate. In other words, if the total gross value of everything you own, house, accounts, cars, etc., is more than $150,000, you probably want to set up a trust to avoid probate. A standard trust estate plan typically includes the trust, back-up will, certificate of trust, financial power of attorney, and healthcare directive. These are the essential documents most people need for a complete estate plan.
Inexpensive Estate Planning Options for Wills and Trusts
Often people look to the internet for help creating a will. Online programs like Free Will and Willing.com allow you to create free wills but are extremely basic. For example, Free Will will help you create a basic will to leave money to loved ones or charity. Willing.com offers very basic wills for free, then begins charging as your requirements become more complex. Since you need a will to name a guardian for your children, companies like this generate revenue via that option since it is not free. Keep in mind, however, when using these services you are on your own. We have seen people use online software programs like LegalZoom and Quicken Willmaker as inexpensive estate planning tools. Unfortunately, when using these services you are responsible for properly creating and signing your estate documents. Remember, these services come with limited support. As a result, it is not uncommon for unexpected problems to arise after death (such as a void will) in estates when someone uses these services. Sadly, we have seen this too many times resulting in thousands of dollars of unnecessary expense to the estate after the person dies.
When to Work with Professional
You cannot afford to make a mistake about guardianship of your children or your legacy. However, attorneys may charge more than $2,500 for simple estate planning and $500/hour to plan your estate. Often these fees prevent many people from taking decisive action to create their estate plan properly. Nowadays, there is another option, using the service of a Registered Legal Document Assistant like A People’s Choice. Using a legal document assistant is an excellent option between doing-it-yourself and hiring an attorney. In fact, A People’s Choice uses the same legal software to prepare estate documents as many California attorneys use.
We always recommend exploring all available options before making this important decision and committing any substantial expense. You will find many companies with a wide range of prices. You also are entirely justified in researching exactly what you will get for the price you will pay. Furthermore, working with a legal professional such as a legal document assistant enables you to tailor your will and estate plan to your specific situation. It may also save your heirs a costly probate proceeding. Paying a professional to help you now could save thousands of dollars or more in the long run.
Explore All Your Options
Most estate plans consist of a standard framework with some variables, such as who will be executor, the guardian of minors and the beneficiaries of the estate. The content of your estate documents is essential. With this in mind, if your estate not complicated, and you just want some guidance in preparing your estate planning documents, working with a legal document preparer is a great option. After all, most of these professionals are using the same legal software as many attorneys use. Furthermore, they typically charge a substantially lower flat fee to prepare estate planning documents. This gives you a huge financial advantage in your estate planning and also retains the financial benefits of using inexpensive estate planning options.
You could expect to pay less between $500 and $800 for an estate plan prepared by a legal document preparer. The price will vary depending on whether you are single or a married couple. Contact A People’s Choice to learn more about this strategy and safeguard your future and your estate today. Call us today at 805-648-5540.
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