Last week I answered a question concerning the restatement of a trust. I ended the column expressing concern that the reader didn’t know what they had signed or why they had signed it.
Although I only mentioned that concern briefly, I think it’s a good idea to spend a little more time on that topic because it really is important.
Any of you that have gone to your attorney for estate planning know that it’s a lot more than just wills. Chances are pretty good that after executing the plan, you left the office with a ream of paper.
When I prepare a trust estate plan, I often wonder how many trees had to be sacrificed so that I could help the client transfer their wealth to their loved ones in an efficient manner.
Now, I don’t want you to think that leaving with a lot of paper is a problem, because it’s not. What I want you to understand is that a thorough estate plan is made up of a lot of smaller parts.
Because the estate plan is made up of a lot documents, it can be difficult to keep the documents straight. Add the fact that a lot of the documents can sound similar, and things can become really confusing.
A will sounds a lot like a living will. A living will sounds a lot like a living trust. And what the heck is an affidavit of trust, and how is it different than the trust itself?
Like I said, it's easy to become confused by the documents and what each of them does.
The water can be even further muddied by the fact that some of the documents overlap others. For example, a health care representative designation can also include end of life powers covered in a living will.
Yup, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the process and all of the documents involved. The problem is that understanding what each of the documents does and why you need them is essential to completing the plan.
The attorney should guide you through the process and explain what each document does and why it’s important. If you aren’t sure, ask. I guarantee that the attorney would rather spend a few minutes explaining things to you again than to send you out of the office not knowing what just happened.
Finally, remember that the attorney might not know that you have questions or concerns unless you speak up. I know that it is a problem of mine. I speak very quickly and I know what each of the documents do so I sometimes gloss over the documents pretty quickly.
At some point I usually ask my clients to slow me down if they don’t understand or if I go over something too quickly.
The moral of the story is to ask a lot of questions and ask them twice if you don’t understand the answer. Don’t feel uncomfortable about asking lots of questions.
You’re paying the attorney so make sure you get your money’s worth.
Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at www.nwi.com. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.
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