The Estate Planning Process in Our Office
The typical estate planning engagement begins with a telephone call from a prospective client. If that person makes an appointment a letter is mailed within 24 hours confirming the appointment date and time. The letter encloses forms for the client to fill out and bring to the appointment. If planning will be done for two clients, such as a husband and wife or life partners or a parent and child, the letter will contain the conflict and confidentiality disclosures required by the Virginia ethical rules. The initial estate planning conference is usually scheduled within a week of the telephone call.
Information needed from you at our first meeting
There are 3 forms for you to complete before your first appointment.
The first is a questionnaire asking for names, addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, and social security numbers of family members. We will be preparing formal legal documents for you so we need complete and formal names. “William L. Babcock, Jr.” rather than “Bill Babcock.” If you own assets using variations of your name or a former name let us know. We will want your documents to clearly identify your checkered past so that as much confusion as possible is avoided over whether or not an asset is owned by you and is controlled by your documents.
Financial information is gathered on a form which groups assets both by categories and by ownership (individual or joint). We ask that you round the values to the nearest $1,000.
One set of crucial decisions for you to make, with our guidance, is who should serve as your fiduciaries — those who will protect you and your assets if you are incapacitated and who will assure that your assets pass to the appropriate persons at your death. We have a form on which you should list the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the persons you think appropriate to: manage your finances if you become incapacitated, make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so, and serve as your executor, trustee (if applicable) and guardian for minor children (if applicable).
Timing and documents
As noted above, the initial estate planning conference is usually scheduled within a week of the telephone call.
The first appointment takes about 1 hour, but can take from 3/4 of an hour to 2 hours depending on how well prepared you are and how complicated your situation is. At the conclusion of that appointment we will have sufficient information to prepare draft documents, which are mailed or emailed to you within 7 days. The letter forwarding the draft documents asks you to read them carefully and write all of your questions on the documents themselves. You can call and discuss your questions about the documents by telephone, or if you prefer we can meet in person. If the documents are complicated we prefer to review them with you in person. Most clients are able to complete their estate planning within 30 days of the first contact with us.
Each estate plan includes a Will, financial power of attorney and medical directive. If circumstances warrant it the plan will also include a revocable Trust. Usually our draft versions of your Will and revocable Trust contain end notes describing in brief terms the purpose or effect of each article in the document. Along with your draft documents you will receive what we call estate planning worksheets, which are Excel spreadsheets we use to help us design your plan and to help us explain the plan to you. The worksheets; 1) list your assets,their estimated values and how they are titled; 2) provide a diagram showing the estimated costs of administering your estate, the federal estate taxes that may be payable and the net amounts passing to each beneficiary.
What documents you will receive
At the time you sign your documents we give you the originals, a set of copies, designation of beneficiary language for your life insurance and retirement accounts, a memorandum describing how you can make gifts of tangible property without the formalities and costs of a formal amendment to your Will, and an instruction letter. The letter explains where you should keep the originals and the copies of your documents, how to complete the life insurance and retirement account beneficiary designations, how to make asset transfers, how often to review your planning and other information that may be helpful to you. If your plan includes a revocable Trust you will be given a memorandum explaining how to transfer your assets into the Trust.