Estate Planning


The greatest benefit of estate planning is peace of mind. We all want to control how our legacy passes to the people {or charities} we care most about. 


Believe it or not, nearly everyone has an “estate”.  

An estate is comprised of everything you own— cars, real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts/investments, life insurance and/or retirement savings.

Estate planning simply means making a plan in advance that identifies who you want to receive the things you own after you die.

To ensure your wishes are met, you must provide instructions in a legally effective manner, stating how you want your property to pass after your death, and written so that the least amount is paid in taxes, legal fees and court costs.

To discover the benefits of estate planning, click a question below for more detailed information.

+ Who can benefit from estate planning?

Estate planning is for everyone. not just “retired” people, although people do tend to think about it more as they age. Unfortunately, we can’t successfully predict how long we will live; illness and accidents happen to people of all ages.

Estate planning not just for "wealthy" people Although people who have built some financial wealth may think more about preserving it, good estate planning is often more meaningful to families with modest assets, because they can afford to lose the least.

The unfortunate reality is that too many people don’t plan. Often, individuals delay estate planning because they think they: a) don’t own enough; b) are not old enough; c) are busy; d) have plenty of time; e) are confused and don’t know who can help them; or f) just don’t want to think about it. Then, when the unexpected happens, their families have to pick up the pieces. This results in stress and legal fees that could have been avoided with estate planning.

+ When is the best time to plan?

The best time to plan your estate is NOW! No one really likes to think about his or her own mortality or the possibility of being incapable of making personal decisions. But this is exactly why many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death occurs. Planning your estate now will allow you to rest assured that if the unexpected does happen, your family is protected.

+ What should estate planning address?

in addition to the simple "who will receive your property if you die" In addition to the simple "who will receive your property if you die," estate planning should do more. It should also address:

  • Instructions for passing your values (religion, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
  • Properly address “blended” and non-traditional family situations.
  • Instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
  • Name a guardian for minor children.
  • How to provide for family members with special needs without affecting government benefits.
  • Protect loved ones who might be less responsible with money, or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
  • Business succession planning at your retirement, disability or death.
  • Minimize taxes, court costs and unnecessary legal fees.

+ Should I have a Will or Trust?

An estate plan begins with a will or revocable living trust.

A will provides your instructions, and, in some circumstances, is sufficient. A will based estate plan does not avoid probate. Generally, any property passing under a will-based estate plan must go through the probate process before distribution to your heirs. If you own property in other states, multiple probates-- each one according to the laws in the respective state -- will be required. Probate files are open to the public. For the most part the court system, not your family, controls the process.

For these reasons, many families prefer a revocable living trust. A properly drafted revocable living trust can avoid probate at death (including multiple probates if you own property in other states), prevent court control of assets at incapacity, bring all of your assets (even those with beneficiary designations) together into one plan. Assets can stay in your trust, managed by the trustee you select, until your beneficiaries reach the age you want them to inherit.

Your trust can continue longer to provide for a loved one with special needs, or to protect the assets from beneficiaries’ creditors, spouses and/or irresponsible spending. Although a revocable living trust is initially more expensive than a will, because it can avoid court interference at incapacity and death, a trust-based estate plan will generally save money in the long run.

+ Will this help me organize records and set up beneficiaries?

Yes! The process of estate planning will help you organize your records and correct ownership (i.e. titles) and beneficiary designations.

Would your family know where to find your financial records, and insurance policies if something happened to you?

Planning your estate now will help you organize your records, locate titles, list beneficiary designations, finding and correcting any issues with beneficiary designations. Many people don’t give much thought to the wording on property titles and beneficiary designations, or don’t revisit them after a divorce, death or other changed life circumstances. Often, beneficiary designations are out-dated or otherwise invalid.

Naming the wrong beneficiary on your retirement plan can lead to devastating tax consequences. If you take the time to correct this now, there is less chance that something will need to be fixed or addressed after your death.

During the estate planning process, we will discuss these important considerations in detail together.

+ So what does it cost?

Internet legal services like Legal Zoom offer legal document drafting for as little as $69 for a simple will. Unfortunately, low-cost, internet-based estate planning is neither client-centered nor individualized. Many people have questions regarding their specific situation, and can benefit from the one-on-one counseling that an experienced attorney can provide. We understand that most people are concerned with their finances and want an idea of the costs involved in achieving their estate planning goals. Our estate planning fees range from approximately $500 for a simple will-based estate plan for a single person, to $2,500-$3,000 + for a two-person complex trust-based plan. These ranges are intended for general informational purposes only.

+ How do I start the process?

The best way to start the process is to schedule a no-obligation initial consultation with Donna where she can review your personal situation. Our fees for estate planning are always custom quoted based on your specific situation, and competitive in today’s world.