Many of our clients have never done any estate planning before, and are unsure of the process, how long it will take, or how to even get started. The overall process typically takes 4 to 6 weeks, during which we will meet two or three times. Here is exactly what you can expect when you work with us:
Request A Consultation
It all starts when you request a complimentary consultation with us. You can do so through our website, or you can call us and our friendly receptionist will help schedule an appointment. If you request it through our website, we will call you back to schedule your consultation.
Before Our Initial Meeting
Prior to our first meeting, we ask that you complete our Confidential Client Questionnaire. This Questionnaire helps you gather and organize the information we will need as we work together to create your estate plan. It includes information about your family, about your finances, and importantly, what you are most concerned about and your personal goals for your estate plan.
We will also ask you about other professional advisors you may work with, such as your accountant or your financial advisor. We do this because we believe in a team-based approach to planning, and want to make sure all of us are working together to put the right plan into place for you and your family.
Know that all information you provide to us is protected by attorney-client privilege, and will never be disclosed to anyone else without your permission.
The Initial Meeting
When you arrive at our office, our receptionist will greet you and offer you coffee, tea or water. We know your time is valuable, and we will not keep you waiting.
During our first meeting, which will last up to one hour, we will discuss your concerns, goals and wishes for your estate plan and answer any questions that you may have. Towards the end of this meeting, we will discuss your options and make recommendations unique and specific to you and your family.
The other purpose of this meeting is to get to know each other, and decide if we are a good fit to work together. We strongly believe that you should only work with people you like and trust, and so it is important to us that we are both comfortable with each other before proceeding.
The Design Meeting
Sometimes, your estate plan may be more complex or there may be decisions you need to make that we were not able to complete during our initial meeting. In these cases, our next meeting will be a Design Meeting, where we will review the specific design decisions that go in to your estate plan. Not all clients require a Design Meeting, and whether we need to have one or not will be determined during the Initial Meeting. Should we have a Design Meeting, this meeting typically lasts up to one hour.
During this stage of our process, we carefully create your specific estate planning documents to put your plan into place. If you have any questions or changes to your plan, you may contact us to discuss during this time. This part of the process usually takes 2-3 weeks.
We will also reach out to your professional advisors during this time, to discuss your plan with them and obtain any needed information that they may have.
The Signing Meeting & Asset Integration
Our final meeting is your Signing Meeting. This meeting will last approximately up to one hour. At this meeting, we will step through and review each document in your Estate Planning Portfolio, for both accuracy and to make sure you understand how each part of your estate plan works. We will then sign, notarize and witness all of the documents.
Once that is done, we will review the process of integrating your assets with your estate plan. During this part of the process, you will make changes to the ownership of your accounts and/or change the beneficiaries on life insurance or retirement accounts, to integrate your assets with your estate plan. This step is crucial to making sure your estate plan works.
We will guide you through this process, including transferring some of your assets, such as your house, at the same time, and for others, such as your bank accounts, we will provide you with specific instructions on what to do. If you work with a financial advisor, we will work directly with them to make changes to the accounts that they manage for you.
After the Signing Meeting
After our Signing Meeting, we will scan all of your estate planning documents into our files. We will also create a thumb drive with digital copies of your documents. We will record any legal documents that need to be sent to the county. Once this is all done, we will call you to pick up your Estate Planning Portfolio, or, for our clients out of the area, we can FedEx it to you.
We are also available to continue to guide you through the process of integrating your assets with your estate plan.
Three Year Attorney Review
Estate planning is not a one-time event. Your estate plan should be updated as things change in your own life. Sometimes this can be changes in your family, such as marriage or the birth of a child or grandchild. Sometimes it is a change in your own concerns, such as a family member who you had a concern with how they handle money is now more mature and you do not have the same concern. Sometimes your financial picture may change, such as buying a new house or entering retirement. And, sometimes, the laws change, and your estate plan needs to be updated to reflect the changes in the law.
That is why we include, with all of our estate plans, a three year review. Three years after you create your estate plan, we will contact you to come in for a review of your plan. If you have a major life event sooner than that, you can come in earlier. During that meeting we will review your estate plan and make sure it will still do everything you expect it to. Many estate plans are done correctly when they are first created, but fail to actually do what they are supposed to because they are not kept up to date. This is why we check in with you every three years to make sure that your plan will work.