Whenever a new client schedules their first consultation with us, they ask if there is are any documents, financial statements, or other materials they need to bring, or if we require potential clients to first fill out a complicated intake form. This is a reasonable question. We try our best to make our initial estate planning consultation as simple as possible, but we understand it can still seem daunting, especially if you are starting from scratch.
This post is intended to help you understand how estate planning consultations work at Tallgrass and how you can be best prepared for the conversation.
What are we going to talk about?
During our first meeting, we will discuss three big picture topics:
- Your people
- Your assets
- Your priorities
When we ask about "your people," we are wanting to learn about you, your spouse, and your children, for sure. But we also want to know if there are others who depend on you financially now or in the future. This could include aging parents, relatives with special needs, or dear friends. This could also include organizations, such as churches or charities, you wish to benefit from your assets. In order to get the most out of this part of the conversation, it is important to be open and honest. We need to know if there are any ongoing financial obligations to ex-spouses or business partners. We need to know if there are children or other family members you wish to disinherit. And we need to know about potentially difficult topics in the lives of your loved ones, such as substance dependence, behavioral problems, mental or emotional instability, difficult marriages, and financial liabilities. The purpose of this conversation is not to gossip about anyone, but to identify ways in which your people - and eventually your assets - may be vulnerable so that we can protect your resources for the benefit of your loved ones rather than their creditors, predators, or financial problems.
When we talk about "your assets," at least initially, we are not needing to review financial statements, appraisals, business agreements, or anything quite so specific. Instead, we need to get a general sense of the nature and extent of your stuff. Approximately how much cash do you have? Do you have tax-deferred assets, like Traditional IRAs and 401ks? How much life insurance do you have? Is it term or whole? What about the value of your house or other real estate? Any unusual assets, like cryptocurrency? The point of this conversation is to identify potential tax and liability issues. The types of assets you have, along with their approximate values, goes a long way in helping us identify the estate planning tools that will best address your needs.
And finally, when we talk about "your priorities," we are focusing on what you most want to accomplish in your planning. Do you simply wish to avoid guardianship and probate courts? Do you want to ensure only certain members of your family, or no members of your family, are able to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf? Do you want to provide asset protection for your spouse and children? Do you want to protect assets in the event of a long-term care need? Do you want to qualify for other benefits, such as SSI or Veteran Aid & Attendance? This is where we talk about your values and beliefs, hopes and fears.
And this is where we take a deep look at how your people, assets, and priorities come together to create a picture unique to you, so that we, your attorneys, can suggest the legal strategy that will most effectively meet your needs.
What do you need to bring?
If you have done no previous planning - no will, no trust, no powers of attorney - then you don't need to bring anything to our first meeting. Just yourself and your readiness to talk.
If you are updating your plan, or asking about ways to assist someone else in updating their plan, bring - or send ahead of time - any existing documents you may have.
What happens next?
By the end of this conversation, we will discuss several estate planning strategies that could meet your needs along with a proposed flat fee for each. We will also provide a "road map" for our way forward, so that you'll know what you need to be thinking about and doing along the way, as well as what we will be doing for you.
Our goal, after this first meeting, is to help you feel educated and informed about your options. We don't want you to feel as if your estate planning is just something that has "happened to you" without much understanding and input from you.
Here's the stuff we always put at the end:
If you want to know more, we would love to talk with you about it. Best part, the conversation about how it could benefit you doesn't cost anything. Call us at (918) 770-8940 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation.
Disclaimer: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship, and it is not formal legal advice. This is for information purposes only. It is always best to speak with an attorney about your questions, assets, concerns, and needs.