The majority of people in Florida will die without a plan in place to help their loved ones stay out of court and out of conflict. That’s because no one wants to think about dying. It’s no fun to think about what life will be like for those you love when they can’t call you or rely on you for care or guidance. It is, however, a fact of life, and thinking about it now can save your family money, time, grief and even relationships with other members of your family and friends.
Rather than thinking of this process as planning for death, I like to think of it as planning for your legacy. Whether that’s a financial legacy or a legacy of ideas, beliefs and values you want to leave behind, it’s important to make sure you’ve thought through what you have, what you know and what you want to convey to those you love. The cost of failing to put together an estate plan then, is not only the money that your family or loved ones will spend sorting out your affairs and transferring and retitling any assets (property, bank accounts, personal possession) you have, but also the loss of your guidance, beliefs, and hopes and dreams for them. It could even cost them valuable relationships as the unfortunate truth is many relationships have fallen victim to the fighting that starts (or gets more severe) when someone dies.
What happens if there is no will?
What happens if you die without a will? If there is no will, a stranger will be divvying up your assets in accordance with how he or she, as a judge, sees fit. Probate will become more complex as sorting out who receives what and how much can get very complicated and expensive. It could also take many months, even years to sort through in the court system.
More importantly, your family members may fight, costing not only dollars spent on legal fees, but relationships that may not mend. This is especially true in blended families, but even in families with siblings that grew up together, fights can break out over sentimental attachments to certain things, and with no guidance from the person whose passed on, the arguing can cause even more personal suffering. If minor children are involved, they can be trapped in the middle of fighting relatives, even if those relatives have their best interests in mind.
Through the simple act of making a will, you set out a road map as to which of your survivors will get which assets, and this can save a lot of hassles, time, and money. Family and friends feel differently when there is a guide telling them what the deceased person’s wishes were and why.
What does it cost to make a will?
- You can make a will yourself. There are many online templates and non-attorney service providers that will help you with this process and the cost varies from a couple of hundred bucks to close to a thousand. While these documents may work for your family, often times they do not because the documents and non-legal service providers don’t take into account your specific situation, don’t tell you what to do after they are signed, so the document doesn’t work as you’d want it, and they fail to address other key aspects of planning your legacy.
- You can consult with an estate planning attorney. A will made with the help of a lawyer is usually more comprehensive and covers every aspect of the estate so that there are no doubts about your intentions after death. Planning using a will prepared by an attorney can cost anywhere between $750 and $1,500.00. Be sure to ask your attorney what that price includes. At Decker Legacy, planning with a will based package comes not only with a will that covers what happens to your “stuff” after you pass away, but also helps you plan for incapacity, helps you get your financial affairs organized so your loved ones know what you have and how to find it, and helps you leave a legacy beyond just your monetary assets.
What happens if I have a trust instead of a will?
Planning with a will is much better than no planning at all! But it can still leave your family with a huge financial burden, possibly even a tax burden, and can cost them time and emotional capital in finalizing the transfer of your assets.
Planning with a trust works differently because it involves a contract that you make with yourself to hold your assets in trust for the benefit of yourself during life, and the benefit of those you love after death. Trust planning, while nothing new for an estate planning attorney, gets complicated and is not something I’d ever recommend anyone try with a template or non-attorney service provider. They usually cost more, and can range from $2,000.00 to upwards of $5,000.00, but can save your family tons in probate and administration costs AND can be used to protect the assets you leave behind from creditors and those who might be prone to spending money in ways you wished they didn’t.
Planning with a trust helps your family avoid probate and the court system because it allows for transfers of assets (property, money, financial accounts, etc.) outside of the court system. It can be a great tool to maximize what you have for those you love.
At Decker Legacy Law, trust based plans come in many shapes and sizes and are designed to meet our clients’ specific needs and goals.
AND that’s not all. There are many other tools out there that we can use to maximize your estate, minimize conflict among your loved ones, and pass along the intangible assets (your beliefs, hopes and dreams for your loved ones, and precious memories you want them to think about when you are gone) that are often forgotten or neglected.
If you are interested in learning more about planning and the various options available to you, please schedule an appointment today by giving our office a call, or signing up on our calendar link.