In working with our amazing estate planning clients, we consistently come across the same questions or attitudes toward estate planning. In an effort to speed up the learning curve for you folks, we are going to go through the 5 most common questions or comments we hear from our estate planning clients when we first start working with them.
Where Do I Get Started?
This question comes up with the majority of our clients. We understand the concept of getting an estate plan completed sounds like about as much fun as spending the day with an accountant. However, I can assure you that we aim to make the process as painless as possible. The first step is simply completing a short questionnaire which mostly consists of checkboxes and fill-in-the-blank style questions. If I had to estimate completion time, I would say it would take most people around a one-half hour to complete. This questionnaire allows our office to see, in a concise manner, all aspects of your potential estate planning profile (a fancy way of saying it allows us to see if there are any red flags or concerns we should be aware of).
How Long Does The Process Take?
Another common question is how long the total process should take. Usually by the time a client actually gets to the point of completing an estate planning questionnaire they have thought about getting an estate plan for years and years. As a result, it makes sense that the client now wants to move the process forward as quickly as possible. Due to the fundamental importance of these documents and the priority our office puts in getting our clients set up with completed estate plans, we will have our client’s estate plans completed as soon as possible. Some more complicated estate plans can take a substantial amount of time to complete. However, for many of our clients, the time it takes to complete the estate plan is usually dictated by the client’s schedule to actually come into the office to sign the documents.
What Does The Entire Process Look Like?
Our process starts with the client completing the initial estate planning questionnaire. From there the client and one of our estate planning attorneys will have a one hour phone call. This is where the attorney will describe the type of estate plan that will best fit the client’s needs, discuss any concerns the client has, discuss pricing, and jump into the specifics of the plan itself (the who, what, why, and the where questions of an estate plan). After this meeting, the attorney will then draft all of the documents for the estate plan. Finally, the client will meet with the attorney to review the documents, ensure any questions or concerns are addressed, and have the client sign the documents in front of a notary and witnesses (when applicable). At this point, the estate plan is completed.
Weight Off The Shoulders
Our office has seen this many many times. We will be working with the client during that final meeting and will hand the estate planning documents over to the client. A few minutes after handing the documents to the client, it starts to sink in. In most cases, we can visibly see the client take a sigh of relief or even make the comment “it feels great to finally get this done”. Keep in mind that if you are anything like all of our other clients, the first time you call us is probably not the first time you have thought “I should really get a will done”. Procrastination is a part of human nature. Nonetheless, we have seen firsthand the pride and relief our clients feel in getting this done.
I Do Not Own Much, So I Do Not Need Anything Too Complicated
This is another common theme I hear from clients when they first call in. Unfortunately, this type of belief lends itself to further procrastination in getting your estate plan done. After all, if something is not complicated, then I have my whole life to get it done, right? Unfortunately, it does not work out quite that way. First of all, a client’s idea that net worth equates to estate plan complexity is usually misplaced. Our office has seen some very wealthy clients with some very simple estate plans. Conversely, we have seen clients who may not have an extraordinary amount of wealth with plans that need to be more complex due to circumstances in their life. The moral of the story is you need the professional advice of an attorney to explain what type of estate plan can best benefit you and what the risks are of not planning properly or proceeding with the wrong type of plan. Second, don’t let the idea that you may only require “minor” estate planning be an excuse to further procrastinate. You have all of the time in the world to get an estate plan until you don’t. The inconvenient truth is that our office routinely has to deal with instances where an individual did not get an estate plan completed prior to needing it. As a result, keep in mind that a simple estate plan is not the same as no estate plan at all.
When it comes to estate planning, we love what we do. We are happy to help walk you through the estate planning options that will best fit your personal circumstances. If you have questions concerning probate and estate planning, please contact our Estate Planning Team!