Have you scheduled your first meeting with your estate planning attorney? You may have questions about what to expect in this meeting. What is expected of you? What should you share about yourself, your family, your business, and your personal information? Even though you selected this attorney and may have received initial information, for many of us, the first meeting with an attorney can make many of us a little nervous.
The first step is to not be nervous. This relationship is about you and making sure that you and what you care about most, is always protected. The initial estate planning conference with your attorney is very important. This is when you explain to your attorney your estate planning goals, as well as, your assets and liabilities. This can also be a time when you also ask his or her advice on whether an estate plan can be established to meet your specific goals.
Your first meeting is also when a confidential relationship is first established between the attorney and the client. This relationship remains confidential, even if you do not hire this attorney. Let us share four key questions with you that you may ask your attorney in your first meeting.
The first question focuses on his or her experience in planning for an estate plan that meets your goals. Attorneys have experience in different types of planning. Many attorneys do not specialize in certain estate plans that are designed to meet the legal needs of a certain type of client. For instance, the majority of your assets may be invested in individual retirement accounts. In that event, your attorney needs to be experienced in drafting specialized IRA trusts that are designed to distribute these unique assets in a manner that does not give rise to tax issues at your death.
The second question you may want to ask your attorney, or the staff when you are scheduling the appointment, is the cost of the initial conference you are requesting. Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase, “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade.” While the question of cost for the first meeting may seem offensive, it is not fair to the attorney to have him or her invest his legal time discussing your plans if you cannot pay for the first meeting. While the attorney may not be able to give you an exact amount for your whole estate plan, as you have not met yet, the cost of the consultation may be discussed upfront and the attorney will not be offended by your question.
A third question to ask your estate planning attorney involves probate. You need to ask him or her what asset may need to be probated and what assets can pass to a surviving beneficiary without probate. The next extension of this question would be to logically ask how could probate be avoided. Your attorney will be able to provide solutions to you on how to both protect your estate during life or incapacity, and then at death by avoiding the probate process.
The fourth question to ask is when should your newly signed will or trust be reviewed by the attorney for updating. This can depend on a number of factors, such as your own family situation or what new laws have been passed that could improve or enhance the estate plan.
Our goal is for you to have the most successful first meeting possible. Creating the right estate plan for you is critical to protecting you, your loved ones, and the legacy you wish to create. We encourage you not to put off planning as there is never a wrong time to create an estate plan. Do not hesitate to contact our office and schedule your first meeting.