Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for an estate planning consultation?

Download an Estate Planning Worksheet from our website. The worksheet is not required, but will help you think through the questions we will ask during the consultation. The worksheet will also prompt you to gather the full names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses for the people you want to name as your executor, trustee, guardian, power of attorney, and health care agent.

What estate planning documents do I need?

We will help you decide depending on the specifics of your situation, but many of our clients need a Last Will & Testament, a Revocable Living Trust, a Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive. A Last Will & Testament directs your assets to the people and causes you care about. A Revocable Living Trust dictates how your assets are distributed at your death, in essence acting like a Last Will & Testament, yet it provides increased privacy as well as more control and flexibility over your assets. A Power of Attorney authorizes another person to make financial decisions for you when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to name a person to make medical decisions for you in you are unable to make them for yourself. It also allows you to express your wishes about allowing your natural death to occur or prolonging your life by artificial or extraordinary measures in the event of a serious illness

How much does estate planning cost?

We give a flat fee, all-inclusive price up front so you will know exactly what you're spending. The cost depends on what documents you need and the complexity of your situation. There's no fee for the estate planning consultation.

What's an executor and do I need one?

The executor of an estate is the person who manages the estate of a person who dies with a Last Will & Testament. The executor files the will for probate; collects and manages assets; pays creditors including funeral expenses, taxes, and bills; and distributes your assets to the loved ones or charitable organizations designated in the will.

What will happen to my minor children if something happens to me?

You need to name a guardian, and perhaps a back-up guardian, to care for minor children in the event you can't do so. This is typically done as part of your Last Will & Testament. It's also important you set up a trust for the children, usually as part of your Last Will & Testament or sometimes in a Revocable Living Trust. The trust will allow you to specify funds for the care, education, and support of your children, but put a trustee in charge of the management and decision-making until the children are old enough to manage their own assets.

My partner and I aren't married. What happens if one of us gets sick or hurt?

Partners who are not married are not each other's next of kin. That means if one of you is sick and unable to communicate with the doctor, the next of kin is in complete control. That can be disastrous if your partner's next of kin won't let you participate in the decision-making. The next of kin could even bar you from seeing your partner. This can be avoided by having a power of attorney and health care directive. You don't need to be married to have these documents and they can prevent all kinds of trouble. We handle estate planning for unmarried partners and it's very important.

How do I care for a loved one who doesn't have a power of attorney or advance health care directive?

Call us to see if we can help. If your loved one is competent to sign legal papers, we can prepare the necessary documents. If your loved one is not competent, it may be necessary to petition the probate court for the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator. A conservator is a person who is court-appointed to handle the personal financial business of an incompetent ward, such as paying bills and managing money. A guardian is a person who is court-appointed to handle the personal care of an incompetent ward, such as making health care decisions or choices about where to live. It's sometimes not necessary to appoint a guardian if the incompetent ward's next of kin is available to make health care decisions. The next of kin is the spouse, children, parents or siblings (in that order) of the incompetent ward.

What is elder law?

Growing older is something that should be enjoyed, not an intimidating or scary journey. Elder lawyers are specifically knowledgeable in the areas of life that can be challenging as we grow older. This includes planning and preparation for long-term care, advance health care directives, estate planning, powers of attorney, asset protection, probate and trust administration, as well as special needs trusts and planning. Elder lawyers can also explore and explain the various systems of paying for long-term care, including Medicaid and other government benefit programs and how to qualify for them