The Estate Planning Process
The question that I'm most often asked by prospective clients is, "How does it all work?" Most people seem to understand that estate planning involves making a will, but they have little idea beyond that. No two plans are exactly alike, as each plan is tailored to the unique situation of the client. However, there are still some common steps in every plan that can hopefully provide a broad overview of what to expect when you hire me to be your estate planning lawyer.
After you book an appointment, we meet for an initial consultation wherein I get to hear your story. This initial planning meeting takes roughly one hour and is my favorite part of the process. We talk about your history, family, career, and other important values. You share where you’re at right now, your concerns about the future, and what your loved ones would need if you died or became disabled. It can sometimes be a heavy conversation, but I have found that many people appreciate the opportunity to reflect on these issues. At the end of our conversation, I will propose preliminary ideas for how to structure your plan, and we will end the meeting with a clear action plan for Step 2 of the process.
I'll go back to my office and prepare your estate plan based on our conversation in Step 1. This step of the process is the hardest to generalize, because it involves creating a personalized plan based on what's best for each client. For some, we may have ended our meeting knowing exactly what needs to be done, and the next time you hear from me will be to complete Step 3. For others, we may have left an issue open and will need further communication before I can draft your plan. Your plan also may include any number of documents, such as a Will, Trust(s), incapacity planning, and more. There are dozens of legal tools available to help create the precise plan that addresses all of your needs and gives you peace of mind about the future.
For most people, once I’ve created your plan, we will meet again to review and sign your documents. This is usually a shorter meeting, and at the end you will have a fully functional estate plan that accomplishes what we set out to do in Step 1. You will also get the PDF files of your documents, a closing letter, and, if applicable, additional help documents for further planning.
As your life continues to grow and change, your estate plan should change with you. Your closing letter will detail some of the most common reasons to revisit your estate plan, but I know that when most big life changes happen, updating our estate plans often does not top our priority list. Because of that, I'll check in every three years for a quick (and free!) review of your plan, to make sure it's still current and accurate. If your plan does need to change, we will discuss options from there.
That is the estate planning process in brief. Because of my commitment to create a plan that's perfect for you, no two processes will look exactly alike. However, the broad four steps of this process (meeting, drafting, delivery, check-in) will be the same for everyone.