Estate Planning Overview
We Understand, Incapacity and Death are Difficult Subjects
Sickness, disability and death are natural aspects of life that few people want to think about, much less plan for. It takes a thoughtful person to foresee that planning for these difficult times will greatly reduce the emotional and legal toll on your family. No matter the size of your estate, a comprehensive estate plan can safeguard your family against the unnecessary stress, delay and expense of court procedures and potential discord among family members.
Not only do the laws change but, more often, people’s wishes change. When outdated wishes are included in estate plans, your goals will be defeated. We can help you discover your current wishes, revise outdated trust documents and update or create your documents to reflect current laws and wishes. Maintaining a life-long relationship is the only way we know that your documents will actually work when you need them.
We Will Provide Everything You Need to Know
Sadly, virtually all the plans we review that have been created in the past, fail in one or more of these areas. Our review and planning process is extremely thorough but together, through our education and your effort to discover your wishes and select the right people as fiduciaries and beneficiaries, we will create a “reality-based” and customized estate plan for you.
We build lifelong relationships based on mutual trust, compassion and expertise.
What is a Comprehensive Estate Plan
A comprehensive estate plan is a set of legal documents – an Advance Health Care Directive, HIPAA Waiver, Durable Power of Attorney for Finance, Will and Trust – that together help ensure your wishes are honored, your family avoids court and they are able to live in harmony after you’re gone.
Memorializing your wishes now and getting your affairs in order relieves a huge burden on your family. Otherwise, you are not only forcing your loved ones to make tough decisions during an already difficult time but also compelling court processes – guardianship, conservatorship or probate – to resolve issues in the event of your incapacity or death.
A carefully thought out and well-drafted estate plan is the ultimate gift that you give those you love to allow them to recover after a devastating loss and live their lives in the healthiest ways.
Why Do You Need an Estate Plan
First, if you become incapacitated, no one can make health, financial or legal decisions for you without an AHCD and a DPOA. Without these documents, you cannot make decisions for a spouse or partner, child who is over 18, aging parent, sibling, etc. This forces your loved ones to go to court to file for conservatorship which is a very expensive and lifelong court process. There is often a lot of conflict in this process. Once the conservatorship is granted, the conservator will still have the burden of knowing how to honor your wishes and may second-guess decisions for a lifetime.
Second, if you die without a Will or even with a Will, your estate may be headed to probate. Not only is this is a very expensive and long process that can be completely avoided but the people you want to inherit may not be the people who end up inheriting your estate.
What Will You Need to do During Our 3-Stage Process
Estate planning requires a thorough discussion and review of your personal goals, family dynamic and finances. In truth, no one wants to talk about incapacity or death. If you do not make the decisions while you are healthy, the court will end up making these decisions for you. Careful planning means you and your family can enjoy everything you have worked for on your own terms.
We provide the education, counsel and guidance you will need to create a reality-based plan that – with periodic reviews and updating – will work when you need it! We strive to streamline this process for you and make it as enjoyable as possible.
Stage 1 is broken down into several steps and includes a lot of handholding and guidance. It begins with a phone call and ends when you sign your estate planning documents. The steps help ensure that you are properly educated about estate planning and to customize your plan to your wishes and family. We work closely with you to plan and implement an estate plan that best suits your and your family’s needs. Throughout the process, we educate you about your options and their consequences, encourage you to think critically, and counsel you in your decision-making. Our estates plans are custom-drafted and designed to work when you need them.
Step 1 – Our 15–30-minute phone call to learn about you and share our client philosophy with you.
Step 2 – Our 30-minute Assets Meeting to review and complete your assets sheet to properly prepare for the next step.
Step 3 – You work on your Getting Started documents. These include, a 1–2-page questionnaire (takes 5-10 minutes to fill out); your Assets Sheet (the time this takes is commensurate with how many assets you have and how well they are organized); and a 3–4-page workbook (this can take a while to fill out but there is a video that goes with it to make it easier).
Step 4 – Our 2- hour first Planning Meeting to educate you about estate planning, to dive deep to discover your wishes and to finalize the structure of your estate plan.
Step 5 – Your homework to complete before we can draft your documents. We follow up with you during this process to make sure you understand exactly what needs to be done and stay on track to complete it. Some clients have very little homework and others have more.
Step 6 – We draft your documents.
Step 7 – You review your drafts along with a cheat sheet and video to help hold your hand and make the process as efficient as possible for you. This typically takes clients 2-3 hours to complete.
Step 8 – Our last Planning Meeting to answer your questions, review the structure of your Trust, finalize the documents to prepare them to be signed and provide an overview of your Funding Plan. This typically takes 1 hour.
Step 9 – Most clients come to our office for your signing meeting where we notarize and witness your documents. We review the Funding Plan again. This takes up to 1 hour.
If your estate plan includes a Trust, it is critical that it is properly funded. Funding is the process of changing the title of your assets from your name into the name of the Trust. If this part of the process is not completed and updated throughout your life, your family will likely end up in probate and cost your estate a lot more money than necessary. At the same time, some of your assets will have beneficiaries and will not be in the name of your Trust. If beneficiary designations are outdated, your assets may end up in the hands of the wrong people. During Stage 2, we create a Funding Plan, along with detailed instructions of what to do with each asset and a cheat sheet to make it easy. Our goal is to make sure that all of this is done correctly and completely.
In order to ensure that our estate plans work in the way they are intended, we maintain a lifelong relationship with you and reconnect periodically every few years. During our maintenance meetings, we review your estate plan, assets and other aspects of your estate plan to determine if they are up to date. From these meetings, perhaps amendments are warranted or maybe we merely remind you of some outstanding homework and offer additional resources to help you and your family.
We are a resource hub for you and your family. We encourage you to contact us for referrals or when you have questions. We treat our clients like family. We like to consider ourselves small town lawyers with big city experience.