What do I look for when looking for a qualified professional?
Good question. There are a lot of those “free lunch” seminars going on around the country, promising to explain estate planning — and you know there is no such thing as a free lunch!
First, you need to do some basic homework about the differences from between a simple will, joint tenancy, a revocable living trust — and other documents such as a living will (end of life directions) and a healthcare power of attorney. In fact, I think you’ve given me an idea for my next column. I haven’t written about that in a long time.
You should understand the basics BEFORE you meet with an estate planner. And how do you find one?
Well, your documents are governed by state laws. (If you move to another state, you’ll want to re-do your plan.) The first place I’d search, especially if you are over 65, is www.NAELA.org — the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys. Or, if you’re not at that stage yet, search by city and state at www.search-attorneys.com. This is the website for ALL estate planning attorneys. This is also a great site for basic information.
Before you meet with one of them, it is fair to ask their fees for a simple will, or better yet — a Revocable Living Trust. Ask if that fee includes transferring title to major assets such as your home into the Revocable Living Trust.
You’re smart to get a qualified professional and pay a reasonable fee (typically about $1500 for a RLT, including asset transfer for a simple plan.) Remember, if you do it yourself and make a mistake, you won’t be around to fix it!