Insights on Estate Planning from an Estate & Business Planning Attorney

Earlier this month, we spoke with Lindsay Harris, an Estate & Business Planning Attorney at Harris Law & Co., in Sioux Falls, for insights on estate planning and how to start preparing and managing assets.

Lindsay, what is your take on wills versus trusts, and how they differ or benefit an individual?

In the legal world, we’re actually seeing Wills become a more outdated form of estate planning. Most clients who come in thinking they need a will, don’t usually end up with a will. Their vision of what they need is usually a revocable trust.

At Harris Law & Co., we’re pretty big fans of well-drafted trusts. All in all, we want to make things easier for our loved ones, so when we say things like ‘hey, let’s get rid of the chaos and make it easier,’ living trusts are going to do that for us.

A trust is really a superior document because it works both during life and after death. Trusts don’t rely on a power of attorney, and if you have assets in the trust, the trust dictates what happens if you become incapacitated, so you don’t have to worry about a judge who doesn’t know you making those decisions for you. When done right, trusts can also remain completely private and avoid the probate process.

However, there is some homework with a trust. A will, you can sign and be done, but it doesn’t manage your estate like a trust does. That’s a big thing people overlook. Even a very simple trust is not that much more work to put together than a will, and you get a lot more benefits.

When should someone start to build an estate plan?

If you are reading this article, it is likely time to start putting a plan in place. Although many of our clients are in their 50’s when they start putting together flexible plans, our biggest planning generation is our millennials. They’re good pre-planners and they want to help make things easy, so they’re actually bringing that average age down.

Ultimately, estate planning comes down to progress over perfection. Unfortunately, experiencing a death is a big reason for starting the process, but whether you have a dollar in your pocket or a million, you have an estate that needs to be planned for. You just need to start. And it’s not a one and done process. Most people should review their estate plan every five years, maybe even more depending on assets and their attorney’s recommendation.

female estate plan representation

What do roles in a trust look like?

Naming a trustee really depends on the type of trust you put together. With a revocable trust, it’s quite common to see trustors name themselves as the trustee. This gives them complete control over their assets and power to manage their affairs as they always have.

As I mentioned earlier, a trust has incapacity terms that allow the trustor to name someone to step in and manage the trust should they no longer be able to. Most trusts are going to have protections built in that allow the successor trustee to pay bills and maintain the status quo, but not make any big changes to the trust or the trust assets during an incapacity.

When someone passes, the trustee’s role looks a little different. Their focus turns to wrapping up the estate pursuant to the trust terms. This includes gathering and accounting for the trust assets and determining which bills need to be paid. At the end, the Trustee will also make distributions to the beneficiaries. In many cases, the beneficiary is a child who’s likely working with an attorney to help sort through the assets they’ll be receiving in the trust.

As an attorney, what information do you expect clients to provide when first meeting to draft an estate plan?

Oftentimes, we overthink this. We see people wait to start planning because they don’t have the “perfect solution” for how to divide up their estate. What they fail to realize is that a skilled estate planning attorney can help them develop these ideas—giving them options they didn’t realize were available. 

For your initial meeting to be really successful with an attorney, you just need to come with an open mind and be ready for conversation. If you can tell us a little about your kids and your accounts (think types of accounts and general values), then you are ready for your first meeting. The attorney you work with should be someone who focuses on estate planning—someone who does it every day—that’s a good fit and that you like to work with. They see the practical side of estate planning and help ensure your documents are not only legal, but also practical.

As an attorney, we also understand you are on a budget and want to know what you are going to pay for your planning. However, it is almost impossible for an attorney to give you an accurate fee quote before meeting with you. It’d be like quoting the price to build a house before the client tells you how many bedrooms the house will have. A great estate plan—even a simple one—is still custom built.

When you meet with your attorney and they give you a planning fee, make sure you understand what other costs are added to that fee. It’s crazy how many people end up paying more in fees for a basic Will than what they’d pay for a simple living trust. A $750 Will sounds like a great price. But if you are charged $255 to meet with your attorney, $127 to revise to the first draft, and a $75 printing fee. The cost of your quoted “$750 Will” just became $1,207. 

Don’t come in to your initial meeting having all the answers figured out. Come in ready to discuss your goals and wishes for your family, then  I can draft a plan that fits your individual goals. The biggest thing is just getting started.


8 Things to Know About Finding Long Term Care

Finding long-term care becomes necessary when someone is unable to perform daily activities on their own for an extended period of time. Once long-term care becomes essential for a loved one, the legwork to search for and find a facility begins. Fortunately, with online platforms like Koazie and Helen’s Plan, families can now navigate their search for care with confidence and ease.

Koazie is a physician-led platform that aids in the transition of care and generates location-based providers and facilities according to the clinical and personal needs of the patient. On the other hand, Helen’s Plan is an easy-to-use, comprehensive tool that archives, secures, and encrypts personal information, granting family members access to the information they need to close affairs and streamline end-of-life responsibilities.

Talking about Getting Long-Term Care

Ganesh Laxminarayan, Executive Director at Health IT and CTO at The Innovation Institute, the provider that launched Koazie, shared that lots of times it is difficult for our loved ones to admit they have overriding challenges that require additional care, but that having information ready is the best way to navigate that conversation.

“We’re working hard to introduce more and more content on Koazie that will continue to help guide care decisions and make it easier for family members to have that conversation with their loved ones,” said Laxminarayan.

If accessible by the platform, Koazie serves facility information as detailed as the number of available beds, star ratings, insurance accepted, medical services available, and statistics regarding the quality of patient care.


The process of finding the right long-term care facility almost always starts with insurance, and what types a facility accepts. Oftentimes, this is something a case manager or social worker will help you determine on top of advocating for your loved one, guiding them toward the best possible care plan, and coordinating those cares.

Types of Services Provided

While a case manager or social worker is likely to recommend a facility based on clinical needs, you should also consider the personal needs facilities meet.

For example, having someone on staff who speaks the same language as your loved one is crucial to getting them the care they need. While hospitals are required to provide an interpreter when necessary, healthcare providers may use phone-based translation systems that lack the ability to recognize nonverbal cues and expressions.

Likewise, opportunities for recreational activities provide your loved one physical and cognitive progress, plus time to socialize with the other residents in their facility.


The distance a facility is from family should play an important role in the final decision, especially when it comes to visiting hours and your loved one’s care plan. Before you get too far into your search, ask your loved one how far away they’d be comfortable living from family and friends.

Facility Features

Beyond cares and extracurriculars, you’ll want to note any significant features within the facility that could affect your loved one’s lifestyle. This could include anything from shared versus single rooms to acceptance of COVID-19 patients, weekday and weekend visiting hours, and transportation and care options for outings.

Comparing Facilities

Once you’ve compiled your top facilities, start comparing details right down to the quality ratings and inspection reports.

“It’s important for patients and families to know, even if a facility does have a 5-star rating, if they have any penalties or violations, and if so, what types,” said Laxminarayan. If accessible by the platform, this is something families can find on the Koazie site, or through a search of your state’s Department of Health website.

Take a Tour

Certain factors can only be determined after seeing the facility or talking with staff. That’s why, you should plan to tour any facilities in your final round of decision-making.

Once Care is Established

Once a facility is lined up, speak with your loved one’s case manager, social worker or medical director to get an understanding of their long-term care plan moving forward. Now is also the time to consider getting a power of attorney or advance directive in place, if there isn’t one already. This is something that can be accomplished and accessible to only the family and friends of your loved one’s choice, at the levels they choose, with a tool like Helen’s Plan.

In the end, careful consideration of your loved one’s care plan, lifestyle and comfortability will get them the right kind of care they need to be in a healthy state.

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