Let's face it, today you can't put together even a simple estate plan without the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Why? Because estate planning is state law specific and these laws are convoluted and tricky. This means that one wrong word or missing signature or any procedure that isn't followed to the letter of the law can partially or completely invalidate your estate plan. Here are some tips on how to minimize the legal fees associated with creating and maintaining your estate plan.
1. Meet by telephone.For your first meeting with an estate planning attorney, do it by telephone. This will save both you and the attorney valuable time and let you know right off the bat if you want to continue to work with the attorney. And once your estate plan is up and running, you can meet with your attorney by telephone or use email to discuss any questions or changes you may have.
2. Be prepared.Before you meet with your estate planning attorney, do your homework. Understand what you own, what you owe, who you want to inherit what's left over, and who should be in charge of managing your estate if you become mentally incapacitated or after you die. And if you want to make changes to your estate plan after it's in place, make a detailed list of what the changes are and forward it to your attorney. This will keep your attorney in the loop and make it easier for your attorney to understand what is it that you want to do and why.
3. Keep it simple.The more complicated that you want your estate plan to be, the more difficult it will be for your estate planning attorney to draft and, therefore, the more your attorney will charge for your initial plan. And a complicated estate plan will also be more costly to maintain as the years go by.
4. Work with an attorney who has a formal maintenance program.This will force you to think about your estate plan once a year or every few years depending on the terms of your estate planning attorney's maintenance program. This will help you to keep your estate plan current and prevent you from having to pay for big and costly estate planning tune ups every 5 or 10 years.