Nowadays, a person cannot put together even a simple estate plan without hiring an experienced estate planning lawyer. The reason is that estate planning laws are different in each state. The laws are very complicated and can be convoluted. In South Dakota our trust laws change almost every year.

Sometimes, even missed signature or a wrong word here and there or some procedure not properly followed can invalidate or change the outcome of your intent when you prepare a last will and testament, a revocable living trust, an advance medical directive, a living will or a durable power of attorney. All of these documents need to be coordinated and kept up to date on a regular basis. If your estate planning documents are five or 10 years old, imagine trying to use a five or 10 year old owner’s manual to prepare your brand new car.

It may feel that attorney’s fees are high. When you consider the services provided and the protection and peace of mind that result in comprehensive, up-to-date planning the fees are really a bargain. Additionally, estate planning fees really should be viewed as an investment and not as an expense.

All that said, as I promised here are three simple things you can do to minimize estate planning fees when setting up and maintaining your estate plan:

Be prepared/do your homework. When you work with an experienced estate plan attorney, ask them if there is anything they would like you to prepare before coming to their office for the first meeting. Experienced estate planning attorneys will have documents and checklists for you to prepare. These questionnaires are designed to help you understand what you own, what you owe, who you would like to inherit what, and who should be in charge of handling your estate if you become disabled and after you die. After your plan is put in place, if you wish to make changes, make a list of the possible changes, additions and corrections you wish to make. Forward them to your attorney for comments and questions.

Keep it simple. A simple estate plan will be easy for you to understand and should cover all the bases. On the other hand, a complicated estate plan can be difficult and time consuming to draft. This can oftentimes mean a complicated estate plan will cost more. Keeping it simple not only minimizes the legal fees and complexity while you are alive, the costs of settling your estate after you die can be minimize by easy to understand estate planning.

Ask your attorney about follow-up. When you prepare an estate plan with Doug Thesenvitz, you are entitled to a review of your plan every two years to do an estate planning checkup.  When you execute your estate plan at my office, before you leave we set an appointment for approximately two years later. This helps us keep track of your estate plan, keeps your estate plan current with changes in the law as well as changes in your family, your goals and your assets. It also helps maintain our relationship Estate plans only work if the planning is up to date.  Up to date estate plans save money on probate and administration fees.

I look forward to your call to help you plan for the unexpected.