You have made the decision to address your estate planning because you want to maintain control over your personal and financial decisions in the event of your incapacity or death. You have found a competent estate planning attorney who is licensed to practice law in your community. You have even taken the big step of scheduling your first appointment with your new attorney. What should you expect at the first meeting? Different attorneys have different approaches. Below is a description of my typical agenda for a first estate planning meeting.
I like to begin an initial consultation by getting to know you a little bit. I will start by asking you general questions about your personal situation, your family, your occupation, and your concerns. I often let you know a little about my background so that we can generally understand each other. In this way, we can ensure that we are comfortable working together and I can have a general sense of your concerns that I need to address.
Generally, you know why you are at the appointment: you want to create a plan that protects and preserves your personal and financial wishes for yourself and your loved ones. However, you probably do not have a full and clear understanding of all of the elements of a comprehensive estate plan and the subtle nuances that each element addresses. I like to spend some time giving you an overview of the different elements of a comprehensive estate plan and how they work together to accomplish your goals.
Next, I take some time to explain the process. It is important that you understand the different steps involved, your responsibilities, my responsibilities, a timeline for action, and at least a general idea of the cost. Although I sometimes charge hourly, I normally establish a flat fee based upon the likely scope of the work involved. I make sure you understand what is included in the fee so that there are no surprises later.
Interview and Discussion:
At this stage, it is time to roll-up our sleeves and really dig into the design of your plan. I will ask you specific questions. These questions will include inquiries about members of your family, whom to appoint as financial fiduciaries in the event of your incapacity or death, whom to name as health care agents in the event of your incapacity, whom to name as guardians of your minor children if any, and other questions related to options for the administration and distribution of your estate. You will be able to answer some of the questions right away while you will be able to answer other questions only after discussion and my counsel. Still other questions might be unanswered at your first meeting but you will at least have a full understanding of the open issues and will have time to contemplate them before giving me final answers at a later date.
Next Steps and Homework:
I conclude our first appointment by describing the next steps and giving you some “homework” – a confidential asset questionnaire where you will provide me some information about your assets. We will usually schedule our next meeting and I will send you a written engagement letter that describes the scope of services and the cost. The letter will also include reminders of the open questions that you still need to answer. You will be asked to sign the engagement letter and return it to my office along with the completed client asset questionnaire. In the intervening time between our scheduled appointments, I will be available to answer additional questions and to provide further counsel. Our mutual goal will be to have all the open questions answered and the client asset questionnaire turned-in ahead of our next scheduled appointment where we will meet to review and sign your written estate plan.
KRASA LAW, Inc. is located at 704-D Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950 and Kyle may be reached at 831-920-0205.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only. Reading this article does not establish an attorney/client relationship. Before acting upon any of the information presented in this article, you should consult a competent attorney who is licensed to practice law in your community.