A few weeks ago I was (cautiously) contacted by a couple who were in the process of putting together their estate plan using a do-it-yourself computer program. They told me that as they went through the program, they became confused and decided that it would be in their best interest to contact an estate planning attorney to determine if they should continue on their own or hire an attorney. I agreed to speak with them to answer their questions and - here's the important part - educate them about all of the things that should be addressed in their estate plan. This is in fact my approach with every potential client and consists of explaining seven important concepts:
- What estate planning is really all about;
- All of the taxes that affect an estate;
- How property is titled dictates who gets it after you die;
- What a revocable living trust is and if you need one;
- Various ways that you can leave your estate to your spouse, your children, or other beneficiaries;
- An overview of the legal documents that will be required to carry out your wishes; and
- The importance of reviewing your estate plan as your life and the laws change.
I am happy to report that after a telephone conference, the couple decided to work with me instead of the computer program to complete their estate plan. Now that everything is signed, sealed and delivered, the couple told me that while they believed the computer program was a good primer and pointed them in the right direction, it was no match for working with a real, live estate planning attorney. In fact, when we were finished reviewing and signing the documents, the wife turned to me and said the words that every estate planning attorney longs to hear: "Now I have real peace of mind." Chalk one up for estate planning attorneys.