Thursday, January 20, 2011

Increase in Pauper Burials

This WSJ article begins with the statement "Times are tough, even for the dead." Yes, the slow economy has brought financial challenges to the funeral industry -- often thought to be recession proof. Sadly, with the increased number of people qualifying for Medicaid, there has been an increase in the number of people who then qualify for a state paid funeral. If you qualify for MA, the State least it did until the budget crisis hit. While most people do not set out to qualify for MA, this article underscores the importance of having your estate plan in order -- a list of people who should be contacted, and ideally completing the State's Authorization for Final Disposition form. It allows you to appoint a first and second choice for who should coordinate your final disposition....burial or cremation. As I always say, estate planning boils down to taking control.

New Year's Resolution - Do A Will!

Did you make a resolution to break free from the majority of Americans who do not have a will in 2011? This time of year I usually get an up tick in phone calls, all from people who say "this is the year I'm going to get a will". Not your usual new years resolution, but all to commonly they are spurred by the caller having a close friend or relative die and leave behind a mess for their loved ones. Vowing not to do the same, they embark on the journey towards creating a will. If you are in the same boat, and are seeking an attorney to assist you, here are a few points to keep in mind in order to find an attorney who you like. Remember, you will be discussing the intimate details of your family structure, finances, and personal goals. You need to open up and bear all in order to get the most sound legal advice. Select your attorney wisely.
  1. Get a referral from someone you trust. Do you have an accountant or insurance person who has a style you like? What about a friend or relative who has completed a will -- who did they go to? If so, ask her or him for the name of an attorney who focuses on estate planning;
  2. Attend a seminar or workshop led by an estate planning attorney. Avoid those "free chicken lunch" seminars at hotels near the interstate. Those folks, who may not even be attorneys, are pedaling over priced livings trusts that most people do not need. Try finding seminars through college extension programs or other community sponsored organization;
  3. Get a description of the pricing and process in writing before hand. The attorney should know his or her practice well enough to be able to give you a concise overview of the process and costs involved. If not, seek other counsel.
  4. Interview at least 3 attorneys. Remember, they are working for you. Find the one that fits your situation, budget, and personality. There are thousands of attorneys out there, but not all of them are right for you.
  5. Check out the attorney you select with the State Bar to make sure he or she is in good standing. A simple phone call or internet search may save you a lot of hassle down the road.
Creating or updating a will and other estate planning documents is neither fun nor easy, but what new years resolutions are? And, with the right attorney, it should be far less painful than you imagine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Importance of Precision

The other night I had a run-of-the mill conversation with my husband, an electrical engineer, about giving Tylenol to our 5 month old daughter. I said "she is due for another dose in 10 minutes". To which he responded, "10 minutes? -- the tolerance cannot be that tight on a dose of medicine". Then he launched into his reasoning, which is posted on his blog for those interested.

Precision -- to him 10 minutes was an absurd limit -- he with the scientist mind. To me, 10 minutes means 10 minutes. As an estate planning attorney, precision is, well precise. Today I had 4 different sets of clients sign their final papers. My job was to orchestrate the signings and to make sure every line was signed and dated -- no omissions, no oversights, precise. Often clients agonize over the wording of a sentence. And yes, wills need to be worded clearly. However, clients often overlook the importance of making sure paperwork is signed and dated properly. No matter how beautifully written is, it if is not signed properly, it is not valid.

My husband knows I'm "type A" -- and if the bottle says no meds for another 10 minutes, I'll wait. For him, it is a bit frustrating. For my clients, it is necessary. When looking for an attorney, ask him or her, how precise are they as they go about life?