Cost is an important consideration for anyone planning to put in place an estate plan. It is worth noting that the court processes that result from not having any type of estate plan generally dwarf the cost of proactive planning. However, cost remains an important component of making the right decisions. Every individual’s situation is different and every family’s situation is different, so it makes sense that good estate planning is carefully crafted to the needs, goals and plans of each person. Accordingly, there are always some unknowns in cost planning until we are able to sit down and talk about these sorts of particulars (and in turn what type of planning will be most effective). As an experienced estate planner, my goal is always to create the most efficient yet comprehensive estate plan to meet the needs of my client. Minimizing cost is a central goal and is always front of mind as we talk through the possibilities of various tools and documents to create the best plan. With that in mind, a fair range of cost for a single person wanting to put in place a Will, a General Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive would be about $700-900. The same documents for a couple (two individuals) or family will often fall in the range of $850-$950 (total). A plan including those same documents but adding a revocable living trust will usually add about $1,000 (total) to the cost. Of course, fees can vary a bit depending on needs, goals and complexity but we commit to a fixed fee after our first meeting—which remains constant no matter how many changes, meetings, questions of drafts end up occurring along the way. And my initial meeting/consultation is always completely free of charge!
A general durable power of attorney grants a named individual (called the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) the authority to act on your behalf with respect to whatever matters are designated in the document. In other words, it is the process of naming someone to act for you if you are mentally unable to. This is usually prepared in anticipation of the possibility of someday being mentally incapacitated and unable to manage your own personal, financial, legal and/or business affairs. In the event that you have not prepared this type of document—and you then become mentally incapacitated—there would be some significant legal and practical challenges. In such an event, someone would have to seek the appropriate determination through a court process to be granted authority to make these types of decisions. This court process (called conservatorship) is costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, not having a document in place that you have prepared leaves greater ambiguity about who you want in that role and what limitations or specific directions you want to include with that authority. Given that preparing a power of attorney is fairly easy and is not very expensive, it is a very wise and simple way to accomplish important planning for your life and your family.
There are three types of potential estate taxes that need to be considered when planning one’s estate:
Federal Estate Tax: The IRS imposes significant taxes on a descendant’s estate. Property subject to federal estate tax (called the “gross taxable estate”), includes most or all of a decedent’s assets, including assets held in trust or otherwise avoiding probate. There are key exemptions and credits that can eliminate this tax completely for many individuals.
Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) Tax: gifts made to relatives more than one generation away (i.e. grandchildren, etc.) are subject to GST taxes.
Missouri Estate Tax: Missouri currently does not impose any state-level estate tax.
I recently came across an article on China’s real estate market and real estate investment in China, which I thought was fascinating. A link to the video can be found here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50142079n
In my legal practice, we represent many real estate investors and real estate businesses in the St. Louis area. Anyone involved in the real estate industry is keenly aware of the extent of “contracts” “agreements” and other documents that are part of any real estate transaction. The detail and complexity of some real estate transactions can be daunting. We work hard to provide clarity, protection and peace of mind to our clients.
We work with both commercial and residential real estate and assist real estate sellers and buyers navigate the potentially dangerous paths of real estate transaction from financing and loan issues, to title problems, easements and closing. With a hopefully-improving economy (unlike that described in China), more and more investors are engaging in real estate transaction and we are anxious to assist in this process.
Keywords: Real Estate Law, Contracts, Agreements, Commercial Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, Title Problems, Easements, Closing, Schleiffarth Law Firm, Jim Schleiffarth, Lawyer, Attorney, St Louis, Webster, Missouri