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Estate Planning: How Much Should You Pay For Your Estate Plan?

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estate planning

Your will is the cornerstone of your estate planning. Without it, your entire estate can become an afterthought to the courts.

Because you must follow the law with this planning, your will is often created first. It can also serve as a template for powers-of-attorney and any other required documents.

What comes after this is a discussion of proper estate planning. Your will is the start, with vetting by attorneys and perhaps drafting a living will or healthcare directive being the next level.

But what about the other half of estate planning? How much should you pay for your estate plan?

The answer is different for everyone, but it depends on how extensive your estate planning needs are. Keep reading to learn more about estate planning can prepare you for the future.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging someone’s affairs during their life if that person becomes incapacitated after death. These plans may eliminate the guessing and maximize the value of an estate by reducing the taxes and other expenses assigned to the estate after someone’s death.

The goal of an estate plan can vary. Estate plans exist to grant the wishes and meet the needs of the property owner. Estate planning includes:

  • Wills
  • Advanced Healthcare Directive
  • Probate
  • Trusts
  • Power of Attorney

With an estate plan, you will have control over who will inherit your assets rather than the government. Instead of letting the state’s default laws pick your heirs, estate planning enables you to choose who will get your assets upon your passing.

Why Can Estate Planning Can Be Worth The Investment

Most individuals who have property or a family should create an estate plan. Depending on the size of your estate and other variables, you might or might not need an estate plan.

Estate plans are helpful if you want your partner to manage your finances and make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and you want to leave your assets to them. You must have an estate plan to guarantee that your assets will pass to your partner upon your death and to formally designate your partner as your agent in your financial and medical power of attorney.

Be Proactive to Find an Estate Planner

You need to be prepared for the inevitability of mortality. That is why you need to be proactive about connecting with an estate planner and securing your assets for the future.

By discussing costs upfront, you can have an open conversation about fees and consultation costs. You need to attend your first educational meeting to talk about different aspects of an estate plan.

Once you choose an attorney, you need to put your deal in writing. By starting with a comprehensive contract, you will be able to keep the firm accountable as you entrust them with your finances and assets. It is necessary to research different firms to select the correct firm to manage your estate.

How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

The cost of estate planning can greatly vary. When budgeting for your estate planning it’s critical to understand who will be working on your estate plan and what kind of plan you require. Estate planning fees are usually broken out into hourly rates, flat fees, or contingency fees.

Hourly Rate

Your lawyer will probably charge you an hourly rate if they are unable to determine a fixed price. Any time spent making your estate plan will be charged at an hourly rate.

If your lawyer charges by the hour, they may also need a retainer upfront. This retainer pays for onboarding costs and contributes to your bottom line. If your estate planner will take more time or work, they may opt for an hourly fee.

Flat Fee

Your lawyer may charge a flat fee to cover the cost of their estate planning services and experience. Usually, this fee includes the creation of a will or a power of attorney.

If your attorney requests a fixed fee, you need to inquire what is covered in that arrangement. Your fixed fees may need to be paid in full before the attorney starts working.

Contingency Fee

In circumstances where you will get financial compensation, a contingency fee is used. For instance, you pay your lawyer a percentage when you obtain once a lawsuit is finalized.

Because payment would be circumstantial, lawyers rarely offer contingency fees as an option for estate plans. A probate lawyer could charge you this fee if they are going to settle an estate.

Lingering Fees

Before you invest in an estate plan, you need to inquire about different fees. These fees are variables that can impact the overall cost of your estate plan. You need to be proactive in scheduling an upfront consultation.

Use A Qualified Estate Planning Professional

An estate plan’s ability to reduce the costs, delays, and invasion of privacy associated with the probate procedure is one of its primary benefits. Estates allow you to provide for your family even after you pass. Many people find great comfort in the ability to care for their loved ones. This makes it essential to minimize the expenses and taxes and to ease the burden of loss on your family.

Interested in finalizing an estate plan for you and your family? Contact our team at the Rhodes Law Firm to get started on estate planning and securing your financial future.

Around The Web: Protect Your Disabled Heir’s Benefits

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If you have an estate plan or are in the process of creating one, it may be wise to ensure its language doesn’t unintentionally exclude an heir with disabilities. If you have a loved one with a disability, default probate laws may disqualify your disabled beneficiary from receiving full government benefits (Supplemental Security Income). Essentially, a direct inheritance would be considered an available resource and would reduce benefits and insurance amounts until these funds are fully used. This article offers insight on how to protect your disabled heir’s benefits.

Ensuring your funds are held in a Special Needs Trust (SNT) can help prevent any issues such as this from arising after your death. These trusts are just one of the various estate plan solutions for beneficiaries with disabilities. Other options include an ABLE account, a pooled trust, or purchasing exempt resources for your beneficiary. 

If you would like to review your estate plan options and ensure all of your heirs will be well taken care of, contact Rhodes Law Firm today. Our team can discuss the various strategies available and make sure your estate plan will stand the test of time. 

Probate: The Legal Process of Determining Inheritance

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probateLosing a loved one is never easy, and trying to cope with that loss while deciding what happens to their belongings can be extremely painful.

Memories come flooding in, emotions run high, and invariably drama can ensue. Family members whom you haven’t seen in years (or ever in some instances) are fighting over who gets to keep what.

When the dispute becomes too intense with no clear resolution being reached from either side, the courts can step in and decide how a deceased person’s assets are divided.

This is called probate.

Whether you’ve been named the executor of a will, want a small trinket as a special reminder, or have yet to draft your own will, knowing what probate is and how it works can help you navigate this emotional time.

Keep reading to learn more about the probate process, how it works, and how you can avoid probate should you desire.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process where a probate court determines the validity and authenticity of a deceased person’s will. Whether the will is valid or not, or if there is no will, the probate court will also determine inheritors and prioritize paying off outstanding debts.

Wills are validated to ensure legitimacy. It’s not uncommon, especially with large estates, for multiple wills to start appearing after death. Most of the time the deceased drafted several wills over their lifetime and someone found an older draft.

The court will determine which of the wills is valid. The probate court has the final ruling on which will is valid and who the inheritors are.

How Does Probate Work?

Probate does not begin automatically when someone dies. If there is a will present then the will must be filed at the courts, if no will is present then paperwork must still be filed with the court.

With a Will

Typically the executor of the will file the document with the probate court. However, anyone in possession of a will may file it in court when that person dies.

After validation, the court will officially appoint the executor. The executor then has the legal powers to act on behalf of the deceased.

The executor’s responsibilities however are not so straightforward. The executor is responsible for distributing a deceased person’s assets to their heirs, and sometimes that means finding an heir or heirs.

Typically the executor is a family member so most executors are able to easily contact all heirs. However, there are times when there has been a falling out with a family member or a long-lost relative is listed no one has ever heard of.

In these cases, it’s important to note the executor cannot decide to who the assets go, but instead must execute the will as written by the deceased.

Without a Will

When no will is present an administrator is appointed over the estate rather than an executor. This also occurs when a will is deemed invalid and there is not another will to file.

Once the court has appointed an administrator the administrator executes similar duties to an executor. They are responsible for locating heirs and distributing the assets.

Again though the administrator does not necessarily determine who gets what The probate court will determine based on the hierarchy of heirs who gets what of the deceased assets.

If no heirs can be located and none come forward the state overseeing the estate can claim the assets for the state itself. However, there is a timeframe that must pass before that can happen.

Jointly Owned Property

Assets that are jointly owned can sometimes be tricky. Especially when one owner is still living while the other is deceased. The probate court in these instances uses a hierarchy of heirs.

At the top of the hierarchy is typically the surviving spouse. After that are any children the deceased may have had. Past that the courts will decide how the assets are distributed.

It is worth noting, however, that without a will friends of the deceased are not considered a part of the hierarchy of heirs.

Joint accounts are considered assets and are left to the surviving owner. In these instances the owner is a surviving spouse, however, any joint account with rights of survivorship will be distributed to the surviving owner. Regardless of the relationship with the deceased.

This also applied to co-owned property as well.

Avoiding Probate

There are ways to avoid entering into probate. You may want to avoid probate in cases where you would like specific assets to go to specific heirs without writing a will.

It’s not a secret drama that unfolds when wills are discussed and brought up. Feelings can be hurt, and respect and loyalty can be turned into feelings of betrayal and rudeness.

Transfer Ownership Prior to Death

Rather than waiting until being deceased for an heir to take possession of an asset, you could transfer the ownership to the heir while alive.

This can be beneficial in certain situations where a person may be married more than once in their lifetime. Or possibly chooses not to marry the person they now share a home with (roommate, friend, significant other).

Living Trust

A living trust or trust fund holds onto the asset of the deceased. Trusts have designated beneficiaries and can specify how to distribute the assets.

When assets are placed in a Trust Fund the deceased is also able to dictate certain criteria for the heirs to meet prior to receiving their inheritance. This can include a child or relative attending college, using funds only to pay for a home, or reconnecting with the family.

Secure Your Heir’s Inheritance

Death is difficult to process. The loss leaves an ache that never really goes away. Many people handle grief differently and can react in extreme ways. Often this appears in the form of laying claim to a passed relative’s assets and can become aggressive.

To avoid these things and to help your loved ones grieve easier and remember the happier times you should understand the probate process. Whether in a will or without one, knowing how your assets will be divided can go a long way in helping your family through a difficult time.

Contact our team of experts today to help you with all your estate needs.

Around the Web: “Gray Divorce” and What You Need to Know

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Splitting up is never easy, no matter your age. However, more and more, elderly couples are deciding to go their separate ways. Divorcing after so many years together may complicate an already complicated matter. According to this Kiplinger article, “gray divorce” is on the rise and there are a few things to keep in mind if this is something you are going through. 

  1. Divide and conquer your financial advisors and attorneys. It may be best for one spouse to keep the existing planner and attorney and for the other to get new providers. 
  2. Consolidate your nest egg to one financial institution so it is easier to keep track. 
  3. Negotiate ahead of time how payments will be split for any upcoming nuptials for your children. 
  4. Update your beneficiaries to reflect your separation. You may want your inheritance to go to an adult child or sibling instead of your former spouse.
  5. Consider a prenup if you get remarried. This will serve as an added layer of protection for your adult children and grandchildren. Also take this time to update your power of attorney to your new spouse.

It pays to plan ahead. If you’re going through a divorce in your older age, we can help you navigate all of the important considerations and decisions. Give Rhodes Law Firm a call today. 

Around the Web: Do you have a Power of Attorney?

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Do you have a plan in place should you become severely ill or incapacitated? It may be grim to think about, but it is vitally important to have a power of attorney in place to make decisions on your behalf. This article explains just how important it is to have someone selected to make your financial and health decisions. A power of attorney would pay your bills, handle your insurance claims, or even file your taxes. 

Whether you are young, old, single or married, you should have a power of attorney in place. Without one, your loved ones will likely have to petition the court to step in on your behalf – a time-consuming and pricey process. This also opens up the possibility of loved ones fighting over who should be your guardian. You can save all of this unnecessary stress and frustration by appointing someone now.

An experienced and well-versed estate attorney can help you draft your power of attorney that meets your specific state’s requirements. Whenever you are ready to get a plan in place, contact Rhodes Law Firm. Our team of skilled attorneys are here for you.

Around the Web: You May Need More Than a Will for your Estate

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Everyone’s estate planning process looks different. A young couple just starting out and a senior with significant assets will need to approach their estate decisions much differently. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, this article suggests a few top strategies for those making estate plans. 

  1. Revocable trusts – a revocable trust bypasses probate, allowing your property to transfer immediately. This saves your loved ones and beneficiaries much time and stress. It also keeps your estate and your wishes confidential, as opposed to going through probate and having everything made public. 
  2. Family limited partnerships – When you set up a partnership that allocates assets among the partners, you can provide a benefit right then which reduces estate taxes by lowering the book value.  
  3. Gifting trusts – by utilizing an irrevocable generation-skipping trust, you are able to make non-taxable gifts during your lifetime up to $16,000 per person per year. By doing this, it is removed from your estate and allows you to retain control over your assets. 

All in all, it’s important to consider these options now. Trusts, estate taxes and the GST are constantly shifting and changing under federal and state laws. It’s crucial to work with qualified legal professionals to create and implement your estate plan. Our attorneys at Rhodes Law Firm are eager to help you create the best plan for your needs. Contact us today!

7 Signs You Should Hire a Trust Attorney

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Trust AttorneyAccording to a recent study, more than 50% of Americans think estate planning is somewhat important, but only 33% have a will or living trust.

And while nobody likes planning for when they’re no longer able to take care of things, estate planning isn’t something you should ignore when there are loved ones you might leave behind.

This is where a trust attorney comes in – they help ensure the best possible outcomes for legal estate planning.

Who is a Trust Attorney?

A trust attorney serves as a personal guide throughout the estate planning process. They walk you through federal and state laws regarding estate planning, assess your goals, and find the perfect balance between the two.

From there, they’ll help you set up a legally binding trust that meets your needs. The attorney will also help manage the trust as time goes by to ensure it is effective.

There are plenty of reasons why you should hire a trust attorney, but it all boils down to peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Below are seven signs you should hire a trust attorney.

1. You Need to Update Documents

Legal estate planning documents aren’t prepared once and stored away for good. Regular amendments are essential to match the documents with changing financial conditions and unfolding life events.

However, updating these documents isn’t about simply making edits. There are legal matters involved that require extensive knowledge of law to handle. An experienced trust attorney from Rhodes Law Firm can help you seamlessly align your estate plans with your current needs. This will help protect your loved ones while preventing family conflicts.

Moreover, an attorney is committed to adhering to all the legal procedures. Doing so prevents any errors that might adversely affect the distribution of assets once you’re gone.

2. You Need the Best Plan for Protecting Yourself, Your Family, and Your Assets

A good estate plan consists of several documents to ensure that your family doesn’t jump through hoops if and when you pass away. These may include a will, trust, medical directive, guardianship nomination, power of attorney, and general assignment.

All of these documents require the use of precise verbiage to ensure that your assets will end up in the hands of the people you care about most. For example, they can help set up a trust for underage children to receive assets when they reach a certain age.

Mistakes like a missing signature or using the wrong words can be the reason your loved ones aren’t protected. A trust attorney ensures that you cover all of your bases.

3. You Need Help Appointing a Trustee

It’s essential to select a trustee when creating a trust. A trustee will be responsible for managing and monitoring assets in the trust. They also handle filing taxes for the trust.

You need an excellent trustee – accountable, organized, responsible, and trustworthy. Finding someone who fits these criteria can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time.

A reputable estate planning lawyer makes finding a trustee an easier task. They help you understand the responsibilities of a trustee, recommend good options, and help you choose someone who fits your needs.

4. You Need Help Navigating Complications

The estate may be simple for someone with no debt, streamlined finances, and limited assets. However, the following factors may complicate matters:

  • Multiple marriages
  • Multiple children
  • Minor children
  • Divorce
  • Problem children
  • No children
  • Real estate in different cities or states
  • Disabled loved ones
  • Substantial assets
  • Debt

If any of the above complications apply to you, having a trust attorney by your side can make navigating them easier. And even if your estate isn’t complicated, your trust lawyer may have a different opinion.

5. You Need Help Determining or Reducing Tax Liabilities

When determining whether your estate is liable for state or federal taxes, several factors come into play. These include:

  • Gross estate value
  • The amount owed at the time of death
  • Total expenses incurred while settling the estate
  • Deductions the estate is liable to take

That said, if you wish to avoid or reduce probate and estate taxes, setting up a trust is the right move. It will provide directives on what happens to your assets and specifies the beneficiaries. A trust attorney can help you achieve this goal while adhering to complex tax laws.

6. You Want to Avoid the Probate Process

The probate process can take up to a year and cost a lot of money. It’s also public, and as such, people can contest it and any legal documents involved.

A trust lawyer can help you set up a trust and avoid probate. The trustee you appoint to manage the living trust will be in charge of distributing the assets.

The living trust is a private document that isn’t a part of the public record. As a result, it will protect your privacy. The document will also allow for faster distribution of assets, which will save on time and costs. A trust attorney will be invaluable in establishing a valid and enforceable trust that avoids probate.

7. You Need an Estate Plan That Will Take Care of a Special Needs Family Member(s)

If you have a child or a loved one with special needs, it makes sense that you’d want to have an estate plan that protects them. This is particularly important because they can lose certain public benefits if they inherit assets outright. Certain types of trusts allow people with special needs to receive their inheritance and still receive government benefits.

However, this area of estate planning is complicated and requires the help of someone with very specific knowledge. An estate planning attorney who is well-versed with special needs trusts can ensure that they get an inheritance that supplements their public benefits.

Need a Trust Lawyer?

No one likes planning for their death or incapacitation. However, every decision you make should be good for you and your loved ones. Your trust attorney will set up your trust and provide valuable legal guidance to you and whoever you name as trustee.

If you are ready to create a solid estate plan, contact us today to meet with a specialized trust attorney at Rhodes Law Firm.

Around the Web: How to Buy a Home

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Buying a home is challenging under even the best circumstances. However there are a few steps you can take to help reduce any unnecessary stress during the process. This article helps explain a few of the things you can do now to make your home-buying experience smoother down the road. 

First and foremost, you should decide if owning a home is the right choice for you and your lifestyle. Before you dive into owning a home, consider all of the pros and cons and take a good look at your finances and career outlook. How does your credit score look? Do you have enough cash to cover a down payment and closing costs? 

Next, it’s good to find out how much home you can afford and get pre-approved before you begin your house hunt. Getting a pre-approval letter also helps you in your bid for a home, as it shows sellers your funding is less likely to fall through. 

When you’re ready to make an offer on your dream home, you should be prepared to negotiate. Your real estate agent can help you navigate through the process if there is a bidding war or counter offer by the seller. 

When you’re ready to close, it’s important to choose a real estate attorney who can represent your best interests. If you’re looking for an experienced and professional closing attorney, call Rhodes Law Firm today. 

How Estate Planning Can Help Protect Personal and Commercial Properties

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estate planningIt is not uncommon to avoid the idea of end-of-life planning. We don’t exactly enjoy thinking about what will happen to our loved ones in the event of our death.

This is exactly why only about half of Americans have Wills. Even fewer have considered or executed proper estate planning.

Estate planning is a critical component of protecting your assets and ensuring the wellbeing of your loved ones. It protects your possessions and allows you to decide who will be your beneficiaries.

Estate planning also enables you to decide who will make financial and health-related decisions on your behalf.

Without thorough estate planning, you leave yourself and your family vulnerable. Leaving the fate of your assets up to chance is a reckless choice few would take if they understood the full consequences.

Whether you want to plan for your personal estate or for your commercial property investments – or both – you will find the answers to your estate planning questions here.

Personal Estate Planning Services

A thorough estate plan is the best way to ensure things go exactly the way you want them to after you’re gone. You can think of an estate plan as a legal set of instructions.

Providing these instructions won’t only give you peace of mind. It will reduce the pressure on your surviving loved ones. Learn more about the estate planning services that are most beneficial to you.

Wills and Trusts

The main foundation of every strong estate plan is a will or a trust. A will ensures that your property gets distributed in accordance with your personal wishes.

A trust is a legal relationship that both protects your assets and directs their use. While a will goes into effect after a death, a person can use a trust at any time in their life and after their death.

Trusts are a great way to prevent legal challenges and limit estate taxes. A trust can also be useful when planning a second marriage where either or both parties are bringing assets into the union.

Living Will

A living will is the end-of-life instructions you provide to your caregiver. These instructions explain what kinds of medical interventions you would and would not like to have.

A living will goes into effect when multiple medical professionals have diagnosed you with a terminal or irreversible health condition.

Beneficiary Designations

Some of your possessions and assets can transfer to beneficiaries outside of a will or trust. In these circumstances, it is beneficial to designate a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary.

Failing to name a beneficiary can result in leaving the fate of your assets up to the court. It is unlikely the court will make the same decisions you would make when it comes to distributing your assets.

Guardianship Designations

Planning for and protecting your children is of the utmost importance when it comes to estate planning. Not all wills and trusts incorporate a guardianship clause. It is important not to overlook this designation.

In the event you do not incorporate a guardianship designation in your estate plan, the court will decide for you. This can mean a relative you didn’t choose gets guardianship of your children or they become wards of the state.

Durable Power of Attorney

Power of attorney is a document that gives a designated agent the legal ability to act and make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so yourself.

These decisions can be related to finances, real estate, and other assets. Without a power of attorney, your loved ones will need to get a court order to make decisions on your behalf.

A durable power of attorney is an agreement that can be revoked when you want. This can be when you are physically able, mentally competent, or upon your death.


Probate is the legal process that recognizes a will and designates a person to serve as executor of the will. The executor administers the estate and makes sure the assets go to the designated beneficiaries.

Estate Planning Services for Commercial Properties

Those who own commercial real estate or investment properties require an estate plan that takes your investments into account. Failing to incorporate them into your estate can create business issues for your surviving family.

The best approach to estate planning that incorporates commercial and investment properties involves both a Willand/or a Revocable Trusts and the use of limited liability companies.

Revocable Living Trusts and Wills

A revocable living trust or will can be an effective tool for those who own real estate. They simultaneously provide continuity and flexibility in the management of assets.

Trusts are also advantageous because they provide privacy and enable you to avoid probate. Overall, having a revocable trust provides enhanced control in the event of death or incapacitation.

Limited Liability Companies

If you own real estate, it is in your best interest to hold those properties in a limited liability company. An LLC is a business entity that exists separately from its members, protecting them from personal liability.

An LLC is a valuable, effective way to protect your assets and plan your estate. With both a revocable trust and an LLC in place, you can rest easy knowing your assets and investments will remain in good hands.

Choosing a Qualified Estate Planning Attorney

Once you’ve decided on estate planning, it is important not to rush into selecting an attorney to hire. Not all attorneys are equally equipped to properly manage an estate.

Here are some relevant aspects you should take into consideration.


A qualified estate planning attorney should have years, if not decades, of experience. When you are researching lawyers, find out how long they have been practicing in the areas of probate, trusts, and estate planning law.

However, simply having experience with estate planning law is not enough. You would do well to find out what percentage of the attorney’s practice is devoted to probate, trusts, and estate planning.


In addition to experience, it is important to hire an attorney with whom you can work well. Aim to hire an attorney who is easy to talk to, who makes you feel comfortable, and who puts you at ease.

It’s a red flag if an attorney doesn’t appear knowledgeable about or interested in your specific situation. It’s also a bad sign if the attorney makes you feel confused and fails to articulate the law in a way you understand.

Estate Planning Costs

The cost of planning an estate can range from a couple of hundred dollars for a basic plan to thousands of dollars for a comprehensive plan. The cost of planning your estate will depend on your needs and your lawyer’s fees.

Find out upfront whether your estate planning attorney charges an hourly rate or a flat fee, and whether they require a retainer. It’s also important to have your attorney provide a written fee agreement.

Learn More About Estate Planning

Estate planning is an essential step in preparing for and protecting your assets and loved ones in the event of your death. You’ve spent your life working for and acquiring these assets – why leave their fate up to chance?

To learn more about the process of estate planning, consult a qualified estate planning attorney.

Around the Web: What to Know Before Closing on Your New Home

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Buying a home can be stressful and exciting. From getting pre-approved by your lender to closing on your new home, it can be difficult to know what to expect if you aren’t familiar with the entire process. This article helps clarify the home buying process and helps prepare you for what you can expect. 

How long does the process take?

From the time you submit your mortgage application to the time you sign the dotted line, it can take about 30-45 days. Lenders now are able to gather your data, documents, and signatures electronically, allowing the process to move more quickly. 

What happens at the closing?

You will carefully review and sign all of the various legal documents that will ultimately issue your mortgage and transfer the ownership of property to you. You will need to bring your driver’s license, or other form of identification, your closing disclosure, and a cashier’s check or wire transfer receipt for the funds you owe. There may be other items you’ll need to bring with you, so check with your closing attorney prior to the meeting. 

What fees will I owe at closing?

There are a number of payments you will be expected to make at closing. From the lender origination fee, a prorated portion of property taxes, interest that will accrue before your first payment, and a few others. 

If you would like to know more about the home buying process, contact Rhodes Law Firm. We proudly offer real estate closings as one of our services, and we would love to answer any questions you may have.