Does the term “estate planning” make you feel queasy? Do you think “Wow, that’s dark!” or “I’ll never have an estate”? Does the thought of passing away create an overwhelming sense of anxiety or dread? You’re not alone. In fact, most people recoil in some fashion when I tell them what I do for a living. It’s not most people’s idea of a fun job.
And while they may be right that my job as an estate planning attorney is not “fun” in any traditional sense of the word, we would argue that signing an estate plan gives our a tremendous sense of security and accomplishment. Nobody wants to think about the world without themselves in it, but it is an exercise that we must go through in order to ensure that the people you love are okay no matter what happens.
So, how do you get started?
Once the initial conference is scheduled, you will receive an “Estate Planning Inventory” via email. This inventory asks about your personal and family information, your assets, and fiduciaries. The inventory is important because it allows me, as the attorney, to begin to sketch a picture your life and shape some recommendations for your plan. Do you have assets that would trigger an estate tax filing at the Massachusetts or federal level? Are you insured such that an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust would be appropriate? Do you have a child with a disability? The answers to these questions provide a foundation for the estate plan and allow us to maximize our time together at the meeting itself.
Initial conferences typically last about two hours. If you are part of a married or unmarried couple, we ask you are both present for the duration of the meeting. We discuss the reason that prompted you to schedule a conference in the first place; you may have an existing estate plan that needs updating, while others may suddenly realize they need an estate plan because they had their first child, got married, or purchased their first home. You might tell us about your child with special needs, that your entire extended family lives in Arizona, that you are thinking of buying a second home, or that a family member just died and you don’t want your kids to go through what you just went through. Whatever it is, these concerns will guide the discussion going forward to ensure that the plan achieves your goals.
There are three major pieces of an estate plan: guardianship for minor children, asset planning (which includes probate avoidance and estate tax minimization), and incapacity planning. As we talk through each segment, we will work to narrow down your priorities which will help me make some recommendations regarding the overall structure of your estate plan.
At that point, we will solidify the type of estate plan you would like to implement (i.e., which documents you would like us to draft for you) and design the plan together. This includes appointing fiduciaries in your plan such as agents under your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, Trustees of your Trust, and Personal Representatives of your will. You don’t need to know every answer at the first meeting, but we get as far as we can. Plans are drafted to be signed in about one to two months from the initial estate planning consultation.
If you would like to schedule an initial conference to discuss your estate planning, please contact Mulhall Withrow. Together, we can get you the answers you deserve.