Spellman, Kelly & Fanous LLC Estate Planning Information

Overview. Estate Planning involves so much more than filling out a form. Estate Planning addresses the individual client’s needs and goals, taking into account each client’s unique situation, and establishing a Plan. As such, Estate Planning requires knowledge of probate law, securities law, banking law, tax law, real estate law, trust law, contract law, family law, Medicaid and Medicare laws, creditor laws, business law, etc. Estate Planning also requires an intimate knowledge of the client and the client’s goals and knowledge of what the client owns, what it is worth, and how the client owns it. An Estate Plan, even if it consists of just a Will, cannot be created in a vacuum. The Plan will include some or all of the tools for transferring property at death, documents to be used during the client’s life and after death, and may include elder law planning and tax planning.

General Estate Plan Package Information. Our Estate Plans are highly individualized but generally provide the following:

  • Initial consultation to provide an overview of how Estate Planning works, to ascertain your goals, and to recommend ways of achieving your goals.
  • Last Will and Testament with Testamentary Guardianship Appointments if minor children.
  • Durable or Springing General Power of Attorney.
  • Health Care Instructions (includes appointment of health care agent, living will, opting for or against organ donation, HIPPA release).
  • Formalized execution process complying with state laws to effectuate validity of all documents (including Proof of Will Affidavit); formal required declarations by signatories, two witnesses, an attorney/person authorized to administer oath.
  • Stand by Guardian Designation Form and Statement of Guardianship if minor children.
  • Review of your assets (includes review of deeds and other relevant legal/financial documents) and recommendations regarding ownership and beneficiary designations to avoid probate and minimize estate and income taxes.
  • Asset Report with our recommendations regarding ownership and beneficiary designations.
  • Disposition of Remains Authorization for unmarried individuals.
  • Ancillary Forms: Will Explanation and Flow Chart, Precatory Memorandum, "Your Online World" documentation form.

Please be advised we also do extensive trust work, including trust structuring, trust agreement drafting and trust funding.

Do-It-Yourself Considerations. Prospective clients sometimes ask for some honest feedback about the risks, effectiveness, and legitimacy of do-it-yourself estate planning tools. Some factors for your consideration are set forth below:

  • Do-it-yourself methods can result in unintended consequences due to errors and misunderstandings--for example:
    • Statutes and case law assign very specific legal meaning to certain terms and language; misuse of such terms and language can result in inadvertent disinheritances or divestments;
    • The Will may not be valid if the execution process doesn’t meet formal state legal requirements;
    • Do-it-yourself methods may save money on the front end but can result in expensive probate proceedings; developing case law is illustrating problems as these Wills are starting to be submitted to probate courts;
    • You don’t know what you don’t know; even reliable source material may not include information that may be relevant to your circumstances.
  • Filling in on-line form documents is not a comprehensive approach--for example, a Will has no impact on any assets that are not transferring via the probate court system.
  • People using online forms are having difficulty getting documents formally executed; many banks, law firms, and town clerks have policies against conducting executions because of the risk involved.
  • Trusts are highly beneficial instruments that can serve a variety of purposes; however, trusts are also highly complex. Don’t attempt to draft your own trust.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation with one of our experienced Estate Planning attorneys.