The cost savings in a good estate plan can be tremendous. A good estate plan can help you and your family:

  1. Save probate court costs and fees;
  2. Save on income taxes – perhaps in the form of more deferral on retirement assets;
  3. Save on federal estate taxes;
  4. Protect inheritances from creditors’ claims;
  5. Protect from loss of family money in divorces;
  6. Eliminate wasteful spending;
  7. Control the ultimate distribution of assets; and
  8. Authorize Medicaid and benefits planning for long-term care.

These are the hard benefits. But there is a soft benefit, too. It is less measurable but more profound.

If a plan is done properly, perhaps the greatest benefit is the peace of mind you get knowing that you have put all of these affairs in order. What a gift for your loved ones.

So how do you know if you have a good estate plan? I suggest you check your gut.

Do you have a sense that your documents should be reviewed?

Do you feel as if maybe the way your assets are titled might not work properly with your legal papers?

Are you concerned that your beneficiary designations are not in the best interests of your family?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then you might not have a good estate plan.

The operative word here is “plan.” Planning requires mental involvement. You need to be engaged in your plan. After all, you are doing the planning.

Your lawyer is advising you. So, whether you have a good estate plan or not depends, often, on whether you feel you have a good estate plan.

In my opinion, you are supposed to achieve a certain measure of peace of mind.

At our office, we usually meet with clients four to six times in the course of a representation. I am kind of like a teacher-counselor-advisor. I feel as if I have done a good job if the client feels good about his or her plan.

There are many technicalities that need to be addressed. That is another reason for our several-meetings structure.

In the end, however, you must check your gut. If you feel a little uncertain about how your affairs and your current documents are arranged, it is wise to sit down with an attorney who handles these matters regularly and get the answers to your questions.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate planning and elder law attorney.