Do I need estate planning?

Usually, the answer is yes. You need an experienced eye to review all aspects of your estate with you, to explain how your various assets will be disposed of at death, whether appropriate money management provisions will be in place, and to assist in minimizing income and estate taxes.

This process involves review of ownership (form of title), asset values, beneficiary designation forms, trusts, wills (possibly including wills of predeceased ancestors), marital agreements, information about intended beneficiaries, information as to identity of heirs at law, and much more. All legal arrangements that affect disposition of your assets at death must be reviewed to ensure that no nasty surprises occur after you are gone.

Should I draft my own will or hire a lawyer?

You should not draft your own will, even with will-drafting software. The key is not just the words of the will, but how they will actually work at the time of your death. A will with provisions to cover all contingencies is, for example, only a bunch of paper if your estate does not pass under the will in the first place.

It is not uncommon for assets to pass outside a will. For example, assets owned jointly with right of survivorship will pass outside a will. Assets in retirement plans pass outside a will. If these facts are not taken into account in considering a total estate plan the plan will have unintended consequences. Most lay people are not trained to recognize these issues, and even lawyers can make serious mistakes in planning their own estates (we have administered such estates).

What advisors (other than a lawyer) might I need in planning my estate? 

Accountant. You may need an accountant who will assist with preparation of your personal income and gift tax returns and any other tax returns you will need to prepare.  The accountant might also be involved with preparing income tax returns for your estate or trusts following your death.

Financial/Investment Advisor. You may wish to consult a financial or investment advisor to make sure your assets, earnings and expenditures will help you achieve your personal goals as to your lifestyle and your wishes to provide for your children and grandchildren.

Insurance Agents. You may wish to consult insurance agents about the life insurance and other insurance options that my be appropriate in your circumstances (which may include one or more of (1) disability (income replacement) insurance, (2) long term care insurance, (3) property and casualty insurance, (4) umbrella insurance, (5) Directors and Officers insurance, and (6) Errors and Omissions insurance).

Trust Officer/Trustee. If you plan to establish a trust, or if you are the beneficiary or grantor of an existing trust, you may wish to consult trust officers or the trustees of any such existing trusts.

We can discuss with you the reasons and need for consulting with any of these advisors and we can provide you with recommendations for any of these types of advisors.

What should I consider in hiring an estate planning lawyer?

There are a number of factors you should consider in hiring an estate planning lawyer.

First, you should consider the amount and type of experience the lawyer has in estate planning and estate administration. (Our attorneys have many years of combined experience in the areas of estate planning and estate administration and routinely represent clients with simple and complex estates.)  We also believe that speaking, writing and bar associate activities are an important indication of professional dedication, skill and thought leadership.  All of our attorneys are committed to these activities.

Second, you should consider referrals and recommendations by other lawyers and other clients of that particular lawyer.

Third, you should consider the estimated cost offered by the lawyer for the work you will hire him or her to do. (See the answer to FAQ “How does Franklin Karibjanian & Law PLLC charge for estate planning services?” below.)  It is also important to keep in mind the old adage not to be "penny wise and pound foolish."

Fourth, after interviewing the lawyer by telephone or in person, you should consider the “chemistry” between you and the lawyer and assess the likelihood that you will be satisfied with a working relationship with that lawyer. 

How does Franklin Karibjanian& Law PLLC charge for estate planning services?

Typically, our office charges by the amount of time the work takes (in tenths of hours), but in some circumstances we can provide a flat fee for our services.  Please call our office to get the most up-to-date information on our billing rates and policies.  

What if I move to a different state? 

It is important to have your estate planning documents reviewed by an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you live.  The laws, procedures, and customs of every state are different, and a competent attorney licensed in the applicable jurisdiction will best be able to advise on the laws of the particular jurisdiction.

When should my estate plan be reviewed?

Generally, you should review and perhaps update your estate plan in the following circumstances:

  • There has been a change in your marital status or that of your children or grandchildren.
  • You have welcomed a new child to your family through birth, adoption, or marriage.
  • Your spouse or a family member has died, become ill, or is incapacitated.
  • You have moved to a different state.
  • There has been a substantial change in the value or character of your assets.
  • You are starting or selling a business.
  • You have received a sizable inheritance or gift.
  • You wish to make a sizable gift to an individual or charity.
  • You are considering purchasing a life insurance policy.
  • You become aware of changes in the law that will affect your plan.
  • Your estate planning documents are lost or destroyed.
  • Three to five years have passed since the last time you reviewed your estate plan.

What should I bring to the initial meeting with my estate planning lawyer? 

  1. Existing estate planning documents.
    • Copies of Wills and Codicils.
    • Copies of beneficiary designations for life insurance.
    • Copies of beneficiary designations for pension plans, IRA’s, 401(k), 403(b), etc.
    • Copies of deeds to real estate.
    • Copies of any trusts of which the client is a trustee or beneficiary, or which the client established.
    • Copies of all existing powers of attorneys, financial and medical (sometimes called “Health Care Power of Attorney,” “Advance Medical Directive,” “Living Will,” etc.)
  2. Financial information showing type of asset, ownership of asset and approximate value (e.g., “Securities account owned by husband and wife jointly with right of survivorship worth approximately $200,000”), including death benefit value of life insurance owned by insured.
  3. Names, addresses, telephone numbers of family members, persons who will be beneficiaries of estate plan, and others who will have a significant role in estate plan (such as personal representatives or trustees).
  4. Copies of all gift tax returns previously filed.
  5. Think about who should serve as executors, trustees and guardians of minor children. If an individual is selected (as opposed to a trust company or other corporate fiduciary), think of a successor.
  6. Ideas as to how estate should be distributed at death, including whether specific dollar amounts or specific assets should be singled out to go to particular beneficiaries. Consider whether assets going to young beneficiaries should be distributed at age 18 or some older age or series of ages.

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