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Learn... Plan... Protect Your Estate

Steps to Build Plan
  Step 1 - Organize documents
  Step 2 - Get educated
  Step 3 - Inventory
  Step 4 - Determine goals
  Step 5 - Develop plan
  Step 6 - Review plan
  Step 7 - Take action
  Step 8 - Get help
Estate Plan Items
  Death Will
  Power of Attorney
  Health Care Directive
  Living Will
  Charitable Giving
  Asset Distribution
  Burial Instructions
Do you need a lawyer?

To be valid, your will must be written, signed, and witnessed according to your state's laws. That doesn't necessarily mean that you need a lawyer. Many people, in fact, write wills without lawyers, but you need to be careful. Even using will kits or online software, you have to make sure that your will complies with your state laws. Otherwise, your will could be invalidated by the cour or challenged by your heirs.

Many lawyers agree that the smaller and simpler your estate is, such as $100,000 or less of liquid assets with everything left to your immediate family, the less risky do-it-yourself wills become. If you are not sure, you might do a cost-benefit analysis. What is the cost to you of doing it wrong versus the possible savings of a few hundred or thousand dollars that the lawyer will charge?

For most people, using a lawyer is the safest way to do estate planning, especially if you have potential tax issues. An experienced estate-planning attorney can easily earn his or her fee by helping you with all the options.

If you are worried about the cost, consult some estate-planning attorneys and see what various items would cost. You might expect a simple will to cost $250 to $500. If you need a living trust, you might expect to spend another $500. If you and your spouse need multiple powers of attorney, a trust, and lots of advice, you might spend up to $5,000. Figure out exactly what you need by reading this section of the website, researching other sites, and reading some books on the topic. Gather the information that you should have before your meeting with a lawyer. When you know precisely what you want, you can contact some lawyers and better estimate the costs.