By Bernard A. Krooks, Certified Elder Law Attorney
When you think about wills, what person would actually want a complicated will or estate plan? Probably not very many or perhaps no one at all. Upon reflection, however, we think what clients are actually saying is that they want an inexpensive will. In reality, who really cares if a will is simple or not; what we really care about is how much it costs.
So, how do we know what type of estate plan you really need? Well, the best way to do that is to sit down and talk to you. We call this an initial consultation and it generally takes about 60-90 minutes. It’s amazing what we can learn during this time. It’s important that you be totally honest so that we may help you accomplish your estate planning objectives. We can’t possibly help you accomplish these objectives if we don’t know what they are.
The problem will likely get worse if not addressed now. Estate planning often costs less to address situations that we know about, than it does to solve problems once they happen. Your lawyer needs to know about all your assets, how they are titled, who your family members are and much, much more in order for the lawyer to do the job properly.
By the end of the conversation, we will likely be able to give you a flat fee cost for doing your estate planning. There may even be some additional options for you to consider, depending on how much you want to spend on your estate planning. Of course, we would not even suggest those options to you if there was not any potential benefit to you. Ultimately, the final call on how to proceed and what to do and not to do rests with you, the client. We give you the options, tell you how they may help you and then you decide what you want to do. Ask as many questions as you want, we are here to help.
Keep in mind, even if you really do need a simple will, you will also need advance health care and financial directives so that your loved ones can make decisions for you if you become incapacitated before you die. To many, this is at least, if not more, important as deciding who gets your assets when you pass away.
In any event, there is nothing “simple” about estate planning. It is a process and one that is ongoing. Even after you have completed your estate planning, it still makes sense to review it every few years or upon the happening of a major life event such as the birth of a grandchild, divorce of a child or some other significant family event.
As lawyers, we do our best to make sure your estate plan is fluid and as flexible as possible so that it doesn’t need to be changed too often; however, sometimes life gets in the way and we need to do a minor tweak here and there or, perhaps even a major re-boot. In fact, good practice dictates that you go for regular, periodic dental check-ups to prevent future problems. The same thing is true for estate planning. You shouldn’ just put your will in a drawer and never re-visit your estate planning again. Remember, it’s not so simple.
Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., is a founding partner of Littman Krooks LLP and has been honored as one of the “Best Lawyers” in America for each of the last seven years. He is past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and past President of the New York Chapter of NAELA. Mr. Krooks has also served as chair of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. He has been selected as a “New York Super Lawyer” since 2006. Mr. Krooks may be reached at (914-684-2100) or by visiting the firm’s website at www.elderlawnewyork.com.