With the New Year comes new resolutions. Maybe yours revolves around getting your estate planning in order? New Year or not, there is no time like the present to make important decisions about how your affairs will be handled if something happens to you. While many people recognize the responsibility of leaving plans for their loved ones in case of a medical event or passing, I find that there is sometimes hesitation around seeking legal services. Some have had previous interactions with an attorney who wasn’t communicative or responsive. Others worry that the meter starts running the minute you sit down with a lawyer and fear what the final bill will look like.
To combat these hesitations, I thought I’d share my process for working with clients so you can know what to expect, at least when you do your estate planning with me. I hope you’ll find it’s not quite the root canal you feared.
Complete an intake form
Whether you’re looking to complete a Will, Trust or Power of Attorney, the first step is to contact my office to make an appointment. To prepare for our meeting, I’ll send you a short online intake form to obtain your basic information including questions about the holders and beneficiaries of important accounts. This is secure software and there is no need for printing, so it’s a great way to help me learn a little more about you. Taking time to think through the questions also provides an opportunity for you to consider what you’d like in your estate plans and whom you may entrust with its execution.
During your appointment, we’ll sit down in my office and review your intake form. We’ll discuss your assets and goals and who in your life may be appropriate to manage your affairs in the case of incapacity or death. Sometimes this takes some brainstorming. We’ll talk about what makes a good healthcare or financial Power of Attorney, the best way to distribute assets, etc. so you’re aware of your options.
This usually takes about an hour. Once I understand what services I can provide to meet your needs, I will clearly communicate a flat fee. If you’d like to continue working together, I’ll collect 50% through check or credit card. The other half is due during our next, and typically last, meeting. This eliminates surprises. If you are ever curious about the charge for services, always feel free to give me a call for a quote.
Review your mailed documents
The one thing that we will not do during your first meeting is sign your final documents. Estate planning involves big decisions so I think it’s best to take some time to reflect. You can typically expect an initial draft of your documents within a month of our meeting, providing you the breathing room you need to think, and even speak with some of the loved ones you’re including in your plans.
At your comfort and leisure, review these documents for accuracy while also considering if you are comfortable moving forward with the plans and people you’ve chosen.
Once you feel ready to move forward, just call the office to make your second appointment. We’ll go over your choices once again, make necessary changes and if everything looks good I will have you sign the final documents and submit your remaining payment.
It’s important to note that estate planning documents are fluid. It’s not a permanent plan and should be updated with family and life changes. Each draft may be relevant for 10 or 15 years before needing to be reassessed, so rest assured that revisions can be made as necessary and that done is better than perfect.
If you have additional questions about my estate planning services or would like to make an appointment, contact me today to set up a time to chat.