Comprehensive Estate Planning, Administration, Dispute And Litigation Services
Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning, Administration And Disputes
We cannot answer all your questions on the website because estate and disability planning, probate and trust administration, and related litigation are complex procedures. Here are a few answers to help you in your journey. Please contact us directly to see how we can assist you.
We hope when you read this summary and review our website, you will get a good overview of what distinguishes us from the many options in the marketplace. Our team “family” serves you, which includes our lawyers, paralegals, assistants, marketing and billing departments, and an executive director who provides administration leadership across all departments. Unlike teams at full-service law firms, we do not have to compete with other practice areas for resources. We are all dedicated to helping you establish and preserve family legacies. We have a client maintenance program designed to help you keep your plan current.
Compare hiring Wool Landon to hiring an architect to build your dream home versus picking out plans from the builder. A builder-built home can be a great option, but if you want the home to be created for you alone, a skilled architect drawing for you would provide you with a fully customized plan. Imagine how much more important it is to have a customized plan for your disability and legacy. These documents represent your final words to your loved ones and charities. We do not rely on software designed for the masses of estate planning attorneys. We manage, create, and adjust our own forms. For our high-net-worth clients, we are creative and accommodate changes in tax law without having to wait for a corporation to update its software. Doing so means we study those changes ourselves, so we understand them and can recommend the best approach for you. Our founder designed the Emerging Estate Plan in part to teach young lawyers and paralegals how to draft plans instead of relying on “boilerplate” software.
Estate planning is the process of planning in advance for the succession of your assets on your death. Working with Wool Landon, you can reliably name the people you want to receive your assets and personal items on your death. The best way to protect your loved ones and preferred charities is to determine in writing what will happen to your assets. Since law and circumstances change over time, our founder likes to say that estate planning is not a destination until you are dead or disabled. It is a journey. You should work with a firm that schedules routine checkups and provides you with information about changes in law, and where your visits are welcome and engaging.
Disability planning involves creating documents intended to let someone or a carefully selected professional step in your shoes to make critical health and financial decisions for you during your lifetime if a situation arises where you no longer can take care of your health and financial affairs. At Wool Landon, we work with you to create disability documents that are as carefully structured as your estate planning documents. In fact, these are the most important documents we prepare for you because you are our client, and we want to protect you and establish your wishes for your own care during your lifetime.
There are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Alaska and Florida are opt-in community property states that give both parties the option to make their property community property. Two states, Alaska and Tennessee, allow non-residents to establish a community property trust with a trustee in their state.
An estate plan consists of a collection of documents that often includes a will, health care power of attorney, durable power of attorney, beneficiary designations, an advance care directive, and a trust. Wool Landon can help you determine which documents to include in your estate plan. Every situation is different, and we don’t believe estate plans are one size fits all.
Dying without a Will, means you die “intestate.” Intestacy is the shortcut for applying state law to how your debts will be paid and your assets distributed. If you do not have a Will or a reliable fully funded revocable trust, your probate estate is going to be distributed in accordance with state law, which creates expenses and obstacles that are best avoided by making decisions during your lifetime. Some assets are not “probate assets.” You may think you can avoid probate by making gifts during life or putting people’s names on your assets but that is a very poor substitute for a fully thought-out estate plan and the existence of a Will.
Wills and trusts have a lot of overlap, and they are often confused with one another. Both determine who will receive your assets but in different ways. Many estate plans include both a Will and one or more trusts.
A will is a legal document that spells out how you want your affairs handled and your assets distributed after you die. A Will is fully amendable and revocable during your lifetime, and its provisions won’t take effect until after death. The Will includes a designation of where your assets will go, instructions for final arrangements, and guardians for your kids and pets.
A trust is a fiduciary (financial) legally binding document that gives an appointed trustee the right to hold and manage assets for the benefit of a specific person or purpose. A trust is effective immediately upon signing and funding it. A trust generally offers more control over your assets’ distribution. A revocable trust, which some states call a “living trust,” is your alter-ego during your lifetime, and like a Will is fully amendable and revocable during your lifetime. Other trusts are “irrevocable” and less adaptable to change. A trust that arises on death out of a Will or revocable trust is called a “testamentary trust.” A testamentary trust doesn’t exist until death.
A better question is: What is the price of litigation due to inadequate estate and disability planning? The cost of faulty documents comes from death or disability. That is when disputes arise, loved ones are not taken care of, your final wishes are challenged, and your financial legacy is at risk.
At Wool Landon, we only create documents that are customized and thorough, and we are skilled in working through difficult problems instead of simply ignoring them. Moreover, Abby Wool Landon has never had any of her estate planning and disability documents end up as the source of litigation.
We offer a comprehensive and substantive initial consultation for a flat fee of $525.00. If you choose to go in another direction after our initial consultation, you will leave with a better understanding of how planning works and the tax and other consequences that will apply to you.
During the consultation, we will review your financial information, get to know you and your wishes for your estate and disability plan, and make proposals for your consideration. At the end of the consultation, we almost always have everything we need to start working on draft documents for your review. We also estimate the cost of proceeding, depending on your particular situation.
It may seem impossible to decide who can be trusted to administer your estate when you’re gone. Choosing the right executor is a vital part of the estate planning process. An executor may be a personal representative for your Will, or a trustee for your trust, or both. At Wool Landon, we view assisting you in making appointment decisions to be one of our key roles in helping you create an estate plan that avoids conflict. At your initial consultation, we will spend a good deal of time discussing all of the crucial appointments, your thoughts, our advice, and how appointments apply to your plan.
In addition to delivering materials when requested, help us build a collaborative team. Your team includes your accountant or CPA, your financial advisor, and your business or other attorneys who work with you. Communicate with us as a member of your team. In particular, include us early and often in your business succession planning with your business law team. Introduce us to your CPA, accountant, and CFO.
At the same time, help us help you preserve your attorney-client privilege. Attorney-client privilege refers to a legal privilege that works to keep confidential communications between an attorney and their client private. Communications made to and by a lawyer in the presence of a third party may not be entitled to this privilege on grounds that they are not confidential. Check-in with us before forwarding confidential information. Your privilege is very important to your process and to protecting you from creditors and predators, and your estate from potential disputes.
If you are a new Wool Landon client wanting to revisit, revise, or undertake your plan with Wool Landon, the answer depends on a few factors. We try to schedule your initial consultation as soon as we select the right lawyer and find a time on their calendar that also works for you. If you are also available and able to provide us with the Family Information Questionnaire before the scheduled meeting, we can usually schedule your meeting within 2 weeks of your request. After the initial consultation, if you hire us, we try to give you a first draft of your plan within 2-4 weeks. That time period depends on our workflow as well as whether we have sufficient information from you to finalize your draft. Once you have your draft, our timing for a signing appointment primarily depends on you. If you are timely in responding to open questions and asking for assistance, we can finish your plan documents within 2 weeks to 4 weeks after you answer all our questions. Once the documents are approved by you and Wool Landon, we schedule a signing appointment as soon as our respective schedules allow. Once your plan is in place, we send out anniversary notices and set anniversary appointments that make sense in relationship to your plan.
The answer to this question varies greatly. We have a few principles to recommend:
- Wait until you have finalized your initial set of estate planning documents with us before you discuss the plan with friends and family members. As for discussions with friends, we don’t recommend comparing planning decisions with your friends as a way to determine whether you are headed in the right direction. Unless your friends have your personal financial statements and exactly the same financial situation and family dynamics, their plan is likely to be different from yours even if they are Wool Landon clients. You hire us to give you personalized advice and counsel. You will experience unnecessary anxiety when asking friends to opine on our advice. As for discussions with family, waiting to discuss your plan with your family members gives us a chance to get to know your family dynamics in your own words, and we can make specific recommendations. The decision whether to discuss with family members and what to tell them depends on many factors. We don’t recommend you discuss details related to who gets what and why, and who gets appointed to do what and why until you have made final decisions with us in private. There is one exception: after we meet, we recommend you discuss the proposed appointments of an agent for your health and end-of-life care with family members, especially with those persons you want to appoint for that role.
- When and if the time comes to include family in your planning discussions, don’t disclose all of your financial information and the value of your estate in your initial discussions. Talk in broad generalities and use the initial discussions to manage expectations and develop rapport with your family on an as-needed basis.
- For some families, less is more. For some, absolute discretion is the best approach. For high-net-worth families passing on operating businesses and establishing long-term trusts, guided discussions that are inclusive of all family members are optimum.
Probate is the legal process under which a state court allows the administration of your estate. If you have a Will, the court will validate your Will and appoint your executor, also known as your personal representative, to serve as the administrator of your estate. If you die without a Will (intestate), probate starts when someone asks the court to appoint an administrator. State law dictates who can and who cannot ask to be appointed administrator of the intestate estate. The administrator then applies the state law of intestacy to the administration of your estate.
Probate can be avoided by a combination of transfers by operation of law, a revocable trust, and one or more irrevocable trusts. These tools also give you privacy with respect to your plan. In some states, probate avoidance is most beneficial because probate fees are very high. Trust administration can also be expensive but avoids the court fees associated with probate. Probate results in your plan being a public record. It has the benefit of automatic court oversight, which can be helpful in some cases.
The length of the probate process will vary depending on the complexity of the estate. Probate can take anywhere from six months to a few years if the estate is particularly complicated. On average, probate takes one year. Administration of a decedent’s revocable trust can be quicker than probate if there are no outstanding tax or creditor issues, but generally, the administration process for both is roughly the same.
THERE ARE STRICT DEADLINES FOR SUCH CHALLENGES. THOSE DEADLINES VARY FROM STATE TO STATE. DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO CONTACT A KNOWLEDGEABLE LAWYER IF YOU THINK A WILL OR TRUST IS INVALID, OR IF YOU THINK THE ADMINISTRATION IS GOING BADLY. A will can be challenged for various reasons including fraud, undue influence, and because the deceased testator did not have the required mental capacity when the will was written. Will disputes are filed in probate court in the county where the person died. The process of challenging a will can be long and overwhelming. Hiring an attorney who is experienced in challenging a will can make the process easier overall. Similarly, a decedent’s revocable trust can be challenged for the same reasons.