Estate planning: Where to begin, 5 things to know

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MPR News' Kerri Miller and guests, Deborah Jacobs and Steve Hartnett, explore the basics of estate planning, why most of us procrastinate about it, and where to start.

Two reasons why you should have an estate plan or a will, according to Steve Hartnett:

• A will makes an already difficult time for loved ones easier

• Without an estate plan, the state decides what happens with everything according to the law, and the law is a one size fits all solution, it will not take into account your wishes.

Five things you should know about estate planning

1. Don't procrastinate

A will is the only way you get to decide who will care for your children and for parents of young children this is the single most common reason that they haven't signed a will. Your estate plan is how you get to weigh in on what happens to your assets and how you want your family and loved ones to be taken care of.

2. Shop around

Not every lawyer is going to be a good fit for your needs, and many may not be the best choice for estate planning. Your real estate lawyer may be great at real estate sales, but that doesn't make them a good fit for drawing up a living trust or a will. Certifications are different depending on where you are, and the laws are specific to each state.

3. How much should it cost?

According to guest Deborah Jacobs, the rate for a lawyer crafting estate documents may run from $300 to $1000 per hour. She suggests treating your interaction with the lawyers as paying for service rather than paying for products. The rates will vary according to where you live, and how complicated your needs are.

4. Everyone thinks they have a simple plan

For some families, a simple will may meet their needs, but more often families are much more complicated today and require more complicated estates to fully meet their needs and goals. for others more complicated trusts, living trusts or other options are best. Explore all of the options that may fit your specific needs, and make sure to do your homework before you start the clock with a lawyer. Generally the more complicated your needs, the more expensive the process is.

5. Remember your digital assets

Digital assets can be easily overlooked since they usually lack mailed statements. Some states have specific rules regarding digital assets, others do not. Treat your online accounts the same as any asset to pass along to your family. Make sure you have a list of your digital accounts so that they may be found.

Bonus: Be an informed consumer

Researching your options before you shop for a lawyer can not only give you a better understanding, but it will most likely make the process cheaper.

Resources

Minnesota Attorney General: probate and planning

American Bar Association

AARP

Cornell University Law School

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