Most people would benefit from having, at minimum, a simple will in place. Even for smaller estates, a properly executed will may help make administration of your affairs simpler and less expensive.
There are numerous websites and legal stationers that put out products to let you "self-draft" a will. I would caution that in Massachusetts, there are specific formalities that must be followed, not only in the witnessing of the will, but in the phrasing used. Using one word or phrase over another can lead to unintended consequences. Further, after seeing the prices some of these outfits charge, I can honestly say that for just a little more, you can have your will professionally drafted.
A will, even one properly drafted and executed, only speaks at death. This means that if you become incapacitated, physically or mentally, during your lifetime and you need someone to manage your affairs, a will does nothing for you. The good news, however, is that there are other simple documents you can put into place to address this concern.
Living wills, durable powers of attorney, and health care proxies are examples of documents that may assist you during lifetime. However, each document has its own uses, consequences, and limitations. It is important to understand these documents, and what they do, in plain English before signing on the dotted line.
Trusts can be marvelous tools for many individuals and families, for a number of different reasons. I have drafted literally thousands of trusts. However, they are not necessary for everyone, and I do believe trusts are oversold a little bit. I personally do not recommend trusts for any client unless it appears from their estate that a trust would make practical and financial sense for them.
At the same time, if I believe a trust would be useful for you, I will outline to you how a trust works and the specific reasons why it will help you.
I do want our time together to be productive, so before you sit down to meet with me for the first time, you will have just a little bit of homework beforehand. However, I will guide you every step of the way so nothing becomes confusing or complicated. Our guided approach helps to make estate planning a painless process.
That leads me to my next answer!
When I started our Fitchburg office in 2008, I set out to be a different kind of law firm. I had witnessed previously the main downfall of most estate planning attorneys, namely that they would do up a bunch of form or "canned" documents for clients, charge them, have the client sign the documents (whether they understood them or not) and send them on their way. At this office we take a different appproach. Our service is inherent not only in the documents we draft but the lifetime of support we give our clients. Once you are a client of the office, you are a friend of the office for life, and we're here to support you throughought your lifetime, hence my motto: "Have a Plan for Life."
Working together, and drawing on my combination of vast experience and cutting-edge technological resources, we can formulate a comprehensive personal or business plan for you that carries out your wishes in a matter of weeks.
I discuss fees with clients up front, so that there are no surprises. For most estate plans, I charge a flat fee, which includes not only the drafting of the plan, but all related consultation and assistance. It is important to me that I am available to you as a resource throughout your lifetime, and you should always feel free to pick up the phone and call with any questions or issues that arise. By my charging a flat fee, you never have to worry about a meter running when you talk to me, or about getting a surprise bill in the mail just because you had a few questions.
After your have executed your estate plan with me, take your time, review it, and if you have any changes whatsoever (even a redraft of the whole thing) you will not pay any additional legal fees for up to 60 days from the date you signed your original documents. Once the 60 days has expired, a reasonable fee is payable for any amendments or rewrites.
For all of my flat-fee clients, an advantage of retaining my office is that you have me as a resource for life. I want my clients to understand their estate plans and be comfortable with them, so I encourage their questions, even if it's not about them directly. Therefore if you have a quick question, don't be afraid to call. You won't get a bill.
In my experience, I have found that many firms who do wills, trusts, and estates do not handle the client's business affairs. However, I believe that business matters often go hand in hand with personal matters, so as part of my practice, I can help you set up a business, incorporate, form a limited liability company, and put in place other documents and agreements that govern what happens to your business if you are unable to run it someday.
Rest assured my office is well-versed in both large and small estates. In addition to graduating from Boston College Law School, one of the finest and most competitive law schools in the country, I have concentrated in estate and business planning for more than 12 years and attend several hours of continuing education classes per year to stay updated on the latest legal trends. So while we certainly can handle the simple stuff, we also can help with asset protection trusts, FLPs, LLCs, SNTs, GRATs, and all those other acronyms that were once the exclusive territory of those big Boston and Worcester firms.
If you have a question, a comment, or simply want to have a conversation and explore how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.