Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where Do I Start?

You start by simply making a decision to complete your estate plan. Give yourself a firm deadline that you believe you will stick to. Make sure the deadline is early enough to cause you to stretch, as doing so creates urgency that will propel you through your planning. Once you have made that commitment, follow the 2 steps below to get started on the right foot with your initial appointment:
  • Decide which estate planning attorney you'd like to work with. You should meet and feel a sense of trust and rapport with your attorney before you ever get "on the clock." In fact, you should be able to get a flat-fee quote during your initial meeting (i.e. there is no "clock"). Fees quoted may or may not be indicative of the attorney's ability or quality of service (you have to trust your gut and / or your referring source's endorsements). In any case, you'll want to hold the initial meeting with your attorney at least four weeks before your deadline. Beware: Not all attorneys will have your documents prepared for signature in a prompt manner. Some attorneys and firms get must very busy in order to meet revenue demands and can have a tendency to let files "sit in the office" for literally months before something is actually done with them (long after the details of the plan have faded in memory or been passed on to an associate to piece together). With our process,you documents are guaranteed to be prepared within four weeks, and its usually more like two or three. The details of your plan are arranged in our system within 48 hours of meeting with you, when details are fresh.
  • Show up to your meeting having prepared in advance. Request a questionnaire from your attorney early on, and set yourself up to have it filled out and submitted to the law office three days before the meeting. You don't need to provide account numbers if you aren't comfortable doing so. Just the name of the financial institution, who's name it's in, and the approximate balance will suffice. You don't need to provide a copy of the deed to your home, but you should bring in a property tax statement so we can identify the property for you legally.
Once you have accomplished the above, you will be well positioned for an effective attorney-client meeting where you can actually design and understand your estate plan.

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