Having good updated legal papers in place are critical if you want to guarantee the least amount of problems in the event of your incapacity or passing. If you have papers that are outdated or from another state, it is wise to update them so they are accurate and will work as intended. 

Quite simply, without proper planning, you or your loved ones could face substantial legal costs and fees which can easily be avoided.

I recently was told by a client that they were quoted a fee from another local law firm of $15,000 to effectuate a guardianship and conservatorship. I was surprised, because that type of work in our area is more likely to incur legal fees of about $5,000. 

None of this is needed, however, if you have a proper updated general Power of Attorney.

Also, if you plan with wills only, then you or your family are likely going to face the prospect of having assets go through probate. This comes with lack of privacy, fees and costs that can be easily avoided.

Every million dollars going through probate generates a fee to the treasurer of about $1,800. This is easily avoided by using a trust.

The good news is that with updated planning, you can avoid cost and delay, preserve privacy, keep it in your family protected from lawsuits, including divorce.

If you leave assets in trust for loved ones, you can assure the assets will be protected from lawsuits, predatory spouses in a divorce, creditors, and estate taxes. 

If you leave assets free of trust to loved ones, they will have full ownership, but the assets will be exposed to lawsuits, predatory spouses in a divorce, your loved ones’ creditors, and the estate tax in a loved one’s estate. 

Usually, attorneys who do this kind of work execute a variety of papers to cover all the threats. For instance, some use releases, powers of attorney, wills, trusts, private agreements – all to ensure your affairs will be managed privately and your assets will be protected.

If done properly, court involvement is minimized, legal expenses are minimized, privacy and protection are maximized.

Perhaps in no other area is it as important to make sure your papers are in order, updated and effective. The problems that can occur without good planning are many.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate and elder law planning attorney. mwinnesq.com