Wills & Estate Planning – Maine

April 2nd, 2012

by Attorney Bruce M. Read

Overview of Reasoning for and Costs of Wills and Estate Planning Documents

Our office typically charges about 2 hours of attorney time ($450.00) to prepare joint and reciprocal estate planning documents for married couples whose combined net worth is less than $3 million.  This figure is slightly less for individuals.  The process involves a first meeting with the attorney to discuss estate planning needs after which our office will generate a draft of the Wills, General Durable Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives which are then mailed or e-mailed to the clients for review and comment.  After edits are made, a second appointment is scheduled to have the clients sign in front of two witnesses and a notary.  In most cases we keep the originals of all estate planning documents in our fireproof file cabinet.  We also mail copies of Advance Health Care Directives to the clients’ doctors and healthcare professionals, including hospitals.

Most people understand the importance of preparing a Last Will and Testament.  If you die without one, the Maine legislature, by statute, has written one for you that will govern the disposition of all assets.  While it is NOT the case that assets “go to the State” as many people believe, the distribution schedule set forth in the statute is rarely in line with what a person would have specifically chosen.  The amounts and percentages of assets distributed to survivors depends upon their marital and blood relation to the deceased and how many exist.

The importance of having a Durable Power of Attorney in place is to avoid having to petition the Probate Court for a conservatorship in the event a person becomes unable to make financial decisions on their own behalf. This is a relatively expensive and time-consuming process that MUST be followed if a person has not designated another individual to make financial decisions on their behalf.

Similarly, an Advance Health Care Directive (previously known as a “Living Will”) serves to officially appoint another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.  The form we use has a detailed list of instructions and directives to be followed, but also gives the agent authority to “step into the shoes” of the incapacitated person and make decisions.  The authority to act only applies if the person is unable to make medical decisions on their own.

Clients often ask for advice regarding how real estate is held and how to protect assets from potential federal and state attachment in the event of long term care or aid/assistance.  We can re-title assets and provide advice on these issues at the attorney’s current hourly rate.

More complicated estate planning for higher net worth individuals involving trusts, conveyancing work and the like are billed on a straight time basis at the attorney’s current hourly rate.  We will provide a cost estimate after discussing these matters with our clients.