Your Complete Guide to Estate Planning

Estate Planning

While it’s true that many people don’t enjoy planning for the end of their lives, a solid estate plan is an invaluable gift to your family and others you wish to remember. And the best way to create your will, decide whether trusts are right for your financial situation, or designate a power of attorney, among other planning matters, is to work with a reputable probate and estates lawyer to guide you.

Today we’re beginning a new post series here on the blog to show you everything you need to think about as you go through the estate planning process, including how to find the most experienced probate and estates attorneys right in your local community. We invite you to stop back frequently for updates and learn more about the estate planning services that the best law firms have to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning

Here at May, May & Zimmerman, we have been helping Lancaster County, PA families plan for the proper handling of their estates – whether modest or vast – for generations. This means we know the questions people have as they look to “get their affairs in order.” And we have the answers you need to set your mind at ease.

What is estate planning?

Often, people don’t even know where to begin with estate planning – and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you need a basic explanation of what the process entails. Essentially, estate planning involves the creation of legally valid documents and directives that accomplish your end-of-life wishes. A great estate plan will also be optimized by a knowledgeable expert (aka a skillful probate and estates attorney) to avoid pitfalls that can unnecessarily cost your loved ones money and heartache.

How much does estate planning cost?

While there is a broad price range that attorneys may charge for estate planning services, (which typically falls between several hundred dollars to around $1,500 or more depending on their local market, experience level, and other factors), the most important question to ask about estate planning costs is how your lawyer expects to be paid.

Understand whether they plan to charge you a flat fee or an hourly rate (and what that hourly rate is), but also remember that a well-organized estate plan is extremely valuable. What you’re ultimately paying for in carefully planning your estate is your family and friends to avoid problems with the legacy you want to leave – ask yourself what that is worth to you as you contemplate attorneys’ fees.

Who needs estate planning?

As we’ve often talked about here on the blog, estate plans are for everyone, though there is a common misconception that only the wealthy need to be concerned about passing on assets and avoiding so-called death taxes. Even if you don’t own much property or have vast financial resources, having a professionally prepared will at the very least is a loving gift to your family and friends.

What estate planning documents do I need?

Estate planning deals with creating your will and/or living will, as well as helping you decided whether specific other options, like establishing various types of trusts, may be right for your unique financial situation and family structure. While it’s true that some people feel confident they can take a DIY approach to estate planning, it’s often unwise. Even if your estate is small, hiring an experienced attorney to assist you in creating your planning documents and keeping them safe and updated over the years is a smart move.

What You’ll Learn in this Post Series

Over the next several months, we’ll be adding to our library of blog posts meant to guide you through the ins and outs of estate planning here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Check back regularly for more.

Chapter 1: More on Estate Planning Basics: What Documents Do I Need?

Learn why everyone needs a will, regardless of their financial position. However, that’s often not the end of the estate planning documentation checklist for many people. We’ll introduce power of attorney designations, living wills, trusts, and also what you should have in place if you’re planning a move to a retirement community or other care facility.

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Chapter 2: Understanding Power of Attorney and What it Means for Estate Planning

Have you been wondering whether designating a power of attorney for yourself or a loved one is a good idea? Or perhaps someone close to you has asked you to hold their power of attorney. You have questions about this responsibility, including how the documents should be prepared. We have the answers.

Chapter 3: More on Trusts: Are They Right for Me?

Trusts can be tricky, and they’re often sold to people who really don’t need them. We’ll take a closer look at the types of trusts that exist, how they can help with estate planning for individuals in specific situations, and when they’re perhaps unnecessary.

Chapter 4: Advance Directives and Living Wills: What’s the Difference?

There is a lot of terminology out there related to advance directives, which are essentially instructions for healthcare decision-making when a person cannot speak to their wishes themselves. This post will focus on living wills (a type of advance directive) and how these vital documents work in Pennsylvania.

Chapter 5: Tips for Crafting Your Last Will & Testament

As you build a will, the most central and foundational document in estate planning, there are many things to consider. Follow our tips (including working with an experienced probate and estates attorney) to obtain the best outcomes.

Chapter 6: Estate Planning Considerations for Your Digital Assets

In our digital age, so much of our life has moved online. If you’re a content creator, artist, or internet influencer, there are important estate planning considerations for your web presence and properties that you own, like websites. We’ll cover the things you need to think about in terms of passing digital assets on to beneficiaries.

Chapter 7: More on Probate in Pennsylvania: A Step by Step Guide

The probate process is one we’ve often talked about here on the blog, from what it takes to open probate in Pennsylvania to what you can expect once you’re actively moving through the steps of probating an estate. Still need more information? We’ll review the things you need to do to survive probate with minimal frustration.

Chapter 8: When to Update Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan can easily be derailed by many things, including a “set it and forget it” attitude. You could have a meticulously crafted will, but if you’ve ignored it for a decade or so, you could be asking for trouble with things like incorrect beneficiary designations. Learn how often you should be reviewing your estate plan with an expert by your side.

Ready to Plan Your Estate in Here in Lancaster?

Get in touch today and discover why May, May & Zimmerman is your strongest choice for estate planning guidance in Lancaster County. Our client-focused approach puts you and your unique legacy first. If you’re ready to begin the estate planning process, we’re here to listen and put our unparalleled experience to work for you.


This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

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