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Estate Planning


 “Leave a plan, not a mess” is one of our favorite sayings. Estate Planning is simply planning for the transfer of your assets at the time of your death. It can be accomplished many ways. One common issue we see is that clients often come in a with an incorrect goal.

Clients frequently come in with a goal of “avoiding probate.” Avoiding probate is not a bad thing but it should not be the primary goal. The primary goal should be the end goal…maybe something along the lines of “I want to leave my money evenly between my three children as simply as possible.” That is a good primary goal and we can work backwards from there to see if avoiding probate is a reasonable secondary goal.

Besides, avoiding probate is not always the best way to accomplish your goals. Say that for some reason, you don’t want a trust but you would like to evenly divide your home between all eight of your children. We could execute a Beneficiary Deed that would automatically transfer the house to all the children upon your passing. Potential problems are agreeing on a real estate agent, a listing price, what to fix before the house goes on the market and eventually what offer to accept, it could devolve into litigation, likely with at least two of the children hiring their own attorney. In this case going through probate would most likely be faster and cheaper since one person would be appointed by the court to sell the house for a reasonable amount and then split the money eight ways. Money is much easier to split up than real estate.

If you’re not quite sure what you want to do and want to talk through some options…even ones you didn’t know existed, I’d be happy to do that. I’ve guided many clients down this road although at the end, no one knows the right answer but you.

The Estate Planning Process: Two or Three easy steps

  • Initial Consultation: We discuss your situation and needs as well as our fit for each other. Not everyone is a fit for me and I don’t accept every potential client I meet with. At the end of this discussion, I will typically be able to quote you a flat fee for the services needed. You are under no pressure or obligation at this point. You can take as much time to decide whether you want to move forward as you need. This meeting is frequently consolidated with the initial design meeting if you decide to move forward right away.
  • Design Meeting: If you decide to move forward, we will have another meeting and go through the details of your situation so we can come up with the perfect plan for you. The first half of your fee is due at this time.
  • Signing Meeting: This is the final meeting when we review your documents together and then you sign. The second half of your fee is due at this meeting. I provide witnesses and a notary if you sign at my office. I will then scan and copy your documents and mail your originals and your copies a week or so later.



A will is the basic document of estate planning. A will is the instruction manual for probate. It lets everyone know who you want in charge of distributing your assets and who who want to receive those assets.


A trust is mostly used to avoid probate and achieve more complicated outcomes than a will can. A trust works by owning your assets so that when you die, the owner of the property doesn’t die and probate isn’t triggered. It only works if you transfer your assets to the trust in a process called funding. This is the Achilles heel of a trust. If the funding isn’t done, the trust won’t work. Don’t worry though, we can help you with that. Some situations where a trust is a better option than a will:

  • when you have more than a few million dollars
  • when you have property in multiple states
  • when you have some kind of family issues
  • you want your spouse to live in your home after your death but want to be sure the house transfers to your children when your spouse passes away
  • when you want to make more intricate distributions


A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make financial decisions for you in the event that you can no longer make you own decisions. One of the most important documents you can have.


A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you in the event that you can no longer make you own decisions. Should also include a HIPPA release provision so that your agent can get your healthcare information for your provider.


Also known as an advanced directive. It is basically an open letter stating your wishes in the event you are terminal and unable to make your own decisions. My typical Living Will specifies that if you’re kept alive by machines and the doctor says you are not coming back then pull the plugs but give you as much pain medication as required to keep you comfortable even if that shortens your remaining life.


A beneficiary deed appoints a beneficiary or beneficiaries for your real estate when you pass away. One beneficiary deed per property must be signed and recorded with the Clerk and Recorder’s Office while you are alive. After you pass, someone (usually the beneficiary) files your Death Certificate with the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The Beneficiary Deed transfers the property to your beneficiary upon your death. No probate, no attorneys and minimal cost and time.

 “Leave a plan, not a mess”