Estate planning and elder law attorneys often receive phone calls from people whose parents decided to write their own wills or downloaded a will that doesn’t comply with state laws. The family is then faced with the expensive and stressful process of dealing with the estate. That’s why nj.com’s article, “Why an estate planning attorney is worth the money,” takes a strong stand in favor of working with an estate planning attorney.
With properly prepared estate planning documents, you will benefit yourself and your family or beneficiaries, both emotionally and financially. At a minimum, you should have an advance health care directive, also known as a living will. This is a document that appoints an agent and provides guidelines for your agent, with respect to your healthcare in the event you’re unable to act.
You also need a power of attorney. Make sure it is a durable power of attorney or, under California law, it will have no force or effect upon your incapacity, which is exactly when you need it, as a durable power of attorney designates an agent to take care of your financial affairs during your lifetime. You also need a living trust or will, which directs the administration of your estate following your death.
If you become incapacitated without a power of attorney, it’s likely that a conservatorship proceeding (called "guardianship" in other states) will be required to appoint a conservator/guardian to handle your financial and personal affairs. A conservatorship proceeding is expensive even before the court's appointment of an independent attorney for the alleged incapacitated person.
If you have a will, it’s more likely that your assets will be disposed of in the way you want and administered by the person you selected, instead of by the intestacy laws. Every state has its own laws that determine who inherits the deceased’s property, when that person dies without a will. It sounds like a simple process, but there are legal terms and specific rules of intestate succession that must be followed.
Conservatorship proceedings or months of private pay in a nursing home cost far more than the fees charged by experienced estate planning or elder law attorney. The anxiety and stress created by do-it-yourselfers, when it comes to estate planning, can’t be measured in dollars alone.
Reference: nj.com (June 3, 2018) “Why an estate planning attorney is worth the money”