Effective estate planning does require full disclosure. It involves the discussion of your private finances, personal life, personal goals as well as the topics of death, dying, and disability. If you’re like most people, you find these topics difficult to discuss, especially with someone outside of your family. An experienced and qualified estate planning attorney realizes this and will gently guide you. And, you will be relieved to discover that you gradually become more comfortable with the estate planning process.
The estate planning attorney is like your family doctor
Just as you must explain your symptoms to your family doctor, you must discuss previously private topics with your estate planning attorney. Neither your doctor nor your estate planning attorney can “treat” you appropriately without full disclosure.
Why you have to make so many decisions
Your estate planning attorney and your eye doctor actually have a lot in common. Picture yourself in the chair at the eye doctor’s office. She puts those huge mechanical glasses over your face and says, “Do you like it this way, or that way?” (And you say, “Can I see it again.”)
The estate planning attorney does the same thing. He or she will give you choices upon which you need to make decisions. Essentially, your attorney will ask, “Do you like it this way, or that way?” Estate planning is heavily counseling based.
The $200,000 mistake
This is a true story. A working man, Sam, came into an estate planner’s office for estate planning. He filled out the form listing his assets and the attorney used this list and their discussions to design Sam’s estate plan.
Shortly thereafter, Sam died. His son came to the estate planning attorney to settle his trust. At that time the true extent of his assets was disclosed. It turns out Sam had about $400,000 over the federal estate tax exemption; therefore his estate owed $200,000 in federal estate taxes.
Turns out, Sam didn’t want to pay a higher planning fee. So he successfully avoided paying an additional $2,000 in attorney fees, but had to pay $200,000 in federal estate tax for a net loss of $198,000.
If you have questions about the information that needs to be disclosed during the estate planning process, consult with a qualified an estate planning attorney.