Getting A Will is an important start to any good estate plan. Without it the state's intestate laws determine where your assets go. This article and video explain the best practices for Pennsylvania residents who want to get a will and related estate planning documents

Getting A Will or Updating Your Will- The Essential
Checklists and Evaluator For Pennsylvania Estate Planning

By:  David M. Frees III JD

Getting A Will or Updating Your Will -
Are You OK, In Big Trouble or Do You Need To Act Now?


Answer the test questions below to find out how
urgent your need and what type of will, trust,
or planning you might need as well as how to
get it done and what it should cost.


Signing a Will

Estate Plan Evaluator

if you answer yes to three or more of  the following criteria, it's time to get some
basic estate planning or to update your will. But check your score to find out
what to do and how much it should cost below.

Check your score below to find out how urgent the
situation might be:

For each yes answer, add the number of points listed!


Are you over the age of 25? ( add 5 points )

Over the age of 50 ( add 5 more points )

Over the age of 75 ( add 10 more points )

Do you own a home? ( add 5 points ) vacation home? ( add 10 points )

Do you have children? ( add 10 points )

Do you have grandchildren ( add 10 points )

Are any of the children or grandchildren minors? ( add 10 points )

Do you have a child or grandchild with a special need or who receives public benefits? ( add 15 points )

Do you own a business, investment real estate  or have you made an investment in a company? ( add 20 points )

Do you have an IRA or  401k with a value of over $100,000.00 ( add 10 points )

Does your IRA 401k or other retirement plans total more than $1,000,000.00 dollars? ( add 15 points )

Are you the beneficiary of any trust or estate? ( add 15 points )

Do you own a life insurance policy with death benefits of $100,000.00 or more? (add 5 points)

Do you own a life insurance policy with death benefits of $500,000.00 or more? (add 10 more points)

Do you have a will? (if yes deduct 10 points) (if it's older than five years, add 15 points)

Do you have a power of attorney? (if yes deduct 10 points) (if it's older than five years, add 15 points)

Do you have a medical power of attorney (if yes deduct 10 points) (if it's older than five years, add 10 points)

Do you have a living trust? (if yes deduct 5 points) (if it's older than five years, add 15 points)

Do you have a living trust? (if yes deduct 10 points) (if it's older than five years, add 15 points)


So what is your total and what does it mean?

A score of 10 - 30 means that you'e financial situation isn't too
complicated and/or you just did your planning.

What should you do? 
If you just did your planning diary to review it in two years or if you have children,
buy life insurance, or need to change any of the executors, trustees or guardians.  If you can't afford a
lawyer, consider legal zoom or a reputable gnarl practice lawyer at a fixed fee to do a will or to
update your documents.
 
Cost:  The cost per person for all of the documents on legal zoom should not exceed $400.00 and the cost for a good law firm should range between $500 and $1,000.00.  Get a flat fee in advance and make sure the initial consultation is complimentary.

A score of 35- 55 means that your affairs are becoming more
complicated or your planning is outdated.
 

What should you do?  Consider getting a good law firm to give you a complimentary initial appointment to asses your situation and advise you about updating your documents or doing a good plan for you.  This type of planning should include (at no additional cost) a durable power of attorney, a living will, medical power of attorney, a HIPPA authorization, and perhaps a sample estate planning memorandum that you can adapt and customize.  Many good firms will also give you a binder to organize your estate planning documents, insurance policies, memos, and related financial documents.

Cost:  The cost per person (or couple) should be $650.00 to $3,000 depending on whether or not you need trust planning, or have a child or grandchild with a special need.  While this sounds expensive, these types of plans can often save tens to hundreds of thousands of costs, fees and taxes for your heirs and can protect a surviving spouse and heirs from law suits and especially from losing an inheritance tin divorce.

A score of 60 or more means that your affairs are fairly complex
and/or that your planning is very out dated. 


What should you do?  Both your spouse (if you're married) and your heirs will benefit significantly from your estate planning at this level.  Thousands to millions of dollars can be saved since the tax rates, fees, and related expenses of an estate which is improperly planned or organized and be excessive.

This type of planning usually requires two to three appointments as your documents will need to be completed or updated and they must be carefully coordinated with your other trusts, insurance policies, and beneficiary designations of life insurance and retirement accounts.

Cost:  No one will accuse you of being a cheap skate here.  The cost of protecting your heirs and your spouse from remarriage and divorce, and from lawsuits and creditors as well as preserving vacation homes, businesses and other assets from significant tax can be high.  However, there is good news.  At this level, sometimes this planning can also protect you and your lifestyle during your lifetime.  And, someone is going to write a check.  The question is will you spend $1500 or more to save thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for yourself and your heirs?

TIPS: 
1)  You'll need and want a lawyer with substantial experience doing estate planning work
2) Even better is a lawyer who is also experienced at estate and trust administration - they have seen the problems and know how to avoid or minimize them
3) This type of lawyer probably limits his or her practice to these areas and represents other wealthy, affluent or moderately affluent people and families
4)  Insist on a complimentary initial appointment to see if you're a match
5) Google the lawyer and the firm to see if they are experience and provide books, materials, and information to help you to evaluate their skill
6) At this level avoid  form books, and internet and software based solutions at all cost.  The risks are too big. 
7)  Make sure that the lawyer provides a comprehensive estate planning questionnaire, a free initial meeting, and a binder and system to organize all of your resources, documents and related materials in one place.


For more information on any of the topics in this article, visit www.PaEstatePlanners.com or call David Frees TOLL FREE
at 1-888-573-7407










David M. Frees, III
Attorney, Speaker and Author