This quick article will give you a general outline of my approach in helping clients with their estate planning (their wills and/or trusts). For those who prefer videos, you can click the video above for a short video I put together about what it's like to work with me on your legal matters.
Your estate plan is unique to you. It is far too important to leave to some mail-merging general website that's trying to convince you through television commercials. For each client who works with me, your journey will normally follow a general roadmap as we plan together. Here's what that looks like:
Your Initial Consultation
Your journey begins with the first time we speak, whether it's by telephone, video conference, or in person. My goal is to get to know you during that first conversation and why you are looking to have an estate plan prepared. This is one of my favorite parts of the process because this is where you get to tell me why your legacy is important to you and how you'd like it protected. If you've already had an estate plan prepared in the past, we can discuss how that process went and if there were unpleasant parts of the process, let's make sure we don't repeat those.
You may also have questions about the documents that were prepared for you before. A priority for me with my clients is to be sure that you understand the documents you are signing - you aren't just handed a document, told to turn to the end and sign where you see your name.
Once we've discussed your goals for your legacy, our next step is to gather the information that we need to plan to protect that legacy. We'll discuss some of the information during our conversation and you'll also have an opportunity to fill out the Estate Planning Intake survey that will give me more information and context for our plan. Some of my more ambitious clients even fill out the Estate Planning Intake survey before our first conversation, but it's up to you when you would like to get it completed.
After our conversation and I've received your survey, I'll let you know if there's any other information I need. If there are documents that need to be sent to me, you can use email, the post office, your client portal, or however else you'd like to get them to me.
Once I've got the information I need, I will work on the first drafts of your documents. This is the step that lets you relax and where I do the hard work behind the scenes. You'll often get short emails or notes from me if I have quick questions or other ideas for the best way to protect your legacy. As I get deeper into the process of crafting your documents, I may come up with some different ideas for you to consider and will run them by you to see if they fit the vision you have of your plan.
Before it's time for you to sign your documents, you'll get to review the draft of all of the documents and we'll make sure that you get all of your questions answered. I've never had a client who hasn't had at least one question and we'll answer all those questions in the fashion you'd prefer. Some clients prefer to mark up the drafts of the documents and work through them over email. Others prefer to set up a phone or video call and go over the documents that way. We'll use whatever process you prefer to get all of your questions answered and get your documents finalized and ready for you to sign.
Signing Your Documents
Once you can tell me you've read your documents and you understand them, we'll get you set up for a signing. This process is currently done virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We'll need two witnesses for the signing and we'll discuss whether those witnesses need to be in the room with you or in the room with me when we do the signing. There are a variety of processes that we are following these days and we'll review the steps for the signing ceremony when we set up the signing date.
What Happens After You've Signed
After the documents are signed, I will make sure all the documents are in order and will also upload a PDF copy of each document to your client portal. The original documents will be returned to you, along with a pre-filled My Personal Planning Essentials checklist and your estate plan is ready. If you've created a trust that needs to be funded, we'll discuss the next steps for you to make sure that it's done properly.
Once your documents are finalized, you aren't totally done with me. You'll hear from me occasionally after the signing to make sure that nothing has changed that needs to be modified in your documents and you'll get some non-estate planning information like my Quarterly Book Giveaway as well. When it's been three years since you signed your documents, you'll also hear from me that it's time to have another conversation about your estate plan. If nothing's changed, it's a short conversation. But a lot can happen in 3 years and we often find that it's time to consider either amendments to your will (called codicils) or maybe even a fresh new estate plan. Some things that can impact your decision include,
- Changes in the Law
- Changes in your Family
- Changes to your Healthcare Decision-makers
- Changes in your Assets
- Other Major Life Events
Ready to Get Started?
If you're ready to get started on your estate plan, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session to get our conversation started!