Our first meeting is (hopefully) less painful than a trip to the DMV.
Since we know that talking about death and disability isn’t the most joyous of topics, we strive to start off as comfortably as possible. As such, our first meeting is an informal educational session.
It’s informal because you don’t have to bring in stacks of paperwork with you or sign a massive contract, and it’s educational because you’re teaching us about your family dynamics, and we’re teaching you about Missouri law and the tax code.
Your estate plan is not a baseball cap – there is no “one-size-fits-all” option. Rather, your plan to provide for your family if you become incapacitated and when you die is fundamentally custom to you. That’s why we spend the better part of our first meeting together listening to your concerns and hopes. Understanding your family dynamics and how we must take those into consideration when you cannot effectively manage your own affairs is the first step. Since nobody knows your family better than you, we listen carefully, and then begin to sketch a course of action that best addresses your primary needs.
You are an expert on your family. We are practitioners of the law. That’s why the next portion of the meeting is spent educating you on the legal system in Missouri and the federal tax code—What is probate? Who would take care of my children if I’m gone? Will my family be taxed on the assets they receive when I die? While it’s true that the vast majority of our clients end up creating living trusts for their loved ones to accomplish their main estate planning goals, you must be adequately shown why that is the case. We don’t just foist our opinion on you and have you create a trust because that’s what other people do. Rather, you must be able to justify to yourself and explicate the reasons for following that path. If you are not able to do so, then we have failed our mission of the first meeting, and will re-explain the legal tenets until you are completely assured that our plan going forward is the best plan for you.
After you are sure that estate planning is the best course of action for you and your family, we give you a quote for our engagement. We use fixed fees because most people are sick and tired of hiring lawyers where a quick phone call results in a bill being sent to your house. We quote prices upfront, and if you agree to hire us, that’s what you will be charged. Period. There are no hidden charges or surprise fees, ever.
Once you agree to our quote, we then design your plan. This entails answering the critical questions of who is in charge while you are incapacitated, how we know you’re incapacitated, who is in charge after your death, who manages the inheritance of your beneficiaries, and who makes medical decisions for you if you cannot. From there, we set the subsequent meeting roughly 2-3 weeks later to come back and execute your documents.
The next installment in this series will explore what actually happens when you sign your documents.