Often times, the first meeting with an estate planning attorney is your first interaction with any attorney in your life. This can mean a sense of insecurity or just plain confusion about what to expect at their first meeting.
“I’ve filled out the questionnaire and schedule my appointment, but what should we expect to discuss?!”
With this guide, you’ll have the introduction and information necessary to eliminate confusion and leave you feeling confident and prepared for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney.
First and foremost, the meeting length and its contents will likely depend on your age and legal needs. Younger individuals and/or couples will likely only require basic advisement as well as preparation of a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy and Living Will and Power of Attorney (be sure to check out these lengths for insights into those documents from our blog). These are the estate planning “essentials” to protect you and your family down the road.
Generally speaking, younger couples should expect to discuss the difference between probate and non-probate assets. In short, if an asset has a joint owner or is payable to a named, living beneficiary upon death, said asset is a non-probate asset that will be paid directly to the joint owner and/or the named beneficiary; and if the asset was owned individually (with no joint owner) or is payable to a named, non-living beneficiary upon death, said account is a probate asset that will be distributed pursuant to the wishes outlined in your loved one’s Last Will and Testament.
Younger couples should also be expected to discuss potential guardians for their young children should something tragic ever happen to both parents. Parents may appoint a guardian and/or guardians of their infant’s person (i.e. someone to look after their child’s well-being and make health care and personal decisions for the child) as well as an infant’s property (i.e. someone to manage their infant’s finances). The chosen guardians may, of course, act as both a guardian of the property and person if that is what is desired by the parents.
Finally, your estate planning attorney should also discuss the possibility of a provision placed into your Last Will and Testament regarding a trust that can be setup for minor children. The trust itself ensures that your child and/or children won’t receive their entire inheritance at age 18 whereupon they would be able to “blow the entire inheritance” in a few years. Rather, the inheritance can be spread out and distributed over the course of many years, often until the child has reached a mature age where they will manage the inheritance maturely. Further, the child’s trust account will be managed by someone that you trust so that any funds that are withdrawn prior to the final distribution are used for health, education, etc.
Older couples should also expect to discuss the difference between probate and non-probate assets, however, afterwards, the focus of discussion will usually shift to that of long-term care planning. We’ll focus solely on long-term care planning in a future blog entry; however, generally speaking, this discussion will focus your general health and well-being and the availability of governmental benefits that may be able to help pay for long term care in the future should you or a loved one require same.
Examples of these benefits include but are not limited to:
> Long term care insurance,
> Department of Veterans Affairs Improved Pension,
> Medicare and Medicaid Assistance.
Each of these programs has a special set of eligibility rules based on assets and income that your estate planning attorney should discuss with you in the event that you feel that these types of services may be needed in the future.
We may speak further regarding special planning techniques that preserve your hard worked assets from future court costs, legal fees and the costs associated with paying for a long term care facility (i.e. an assisted living facility and/or a nursing home). These potential topics include the preparation of irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts and quitclaim deeds with reservation of life estate. I know this can all sound a bit overwhelming – you don’t need to know everything about these topics right now (and I will be digging into them in more detail for future blog posts as well).
Once your meeting has concluded, your attorney should send you a follow up letter containing a recap of the meeting and any additional notes or discussions, along with drafts of any documents that will be prepared. Once these documents have been approved by you and your loved ones, a follow up meeting will be scheduled in order to sign any necessary documents and review any plans that are being set forth regarding long term care.
Overall, most estate planning meetings last approximately 30 to 60 minutes and should always be attended by yourself, your spouse and any loved ones that you would like to be placed “in the loop” regarding what your plans are for the future.
If you or a family member are interested in meeting with an estate planning attorney, please feel free to contact our office in order to schedule your initial, free consultation. We strive to provide convenient and affordable estate planning, no matter your age. You should be busy enjoying life, not wondering about the ‘what ifs.’
Related Topics: Estate Planning