Your First Consultation
Compliments of the Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Edited By: Andrew T. Slaton-Freeman
You have chosen to get your affairs in order. You’ve found a competent attorney, booked an appointment, and sent some emails back and forth with their office. It’s an important time, but you’re not quite sure what to expect from– or bring to– your first meeting with an estate planning attorney. Don’t worry! We’re here to help.
Your meeting probably won’t be as overwhelming as you’re anticipating. However, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare yourself for your first estate planning consultation. We’ll discuss them in the following paragraphs.
II. Finding Your Advocate
Let’s start from the beginning. Perhaps you haven’t taken that first step yet. Are still trying to find an attorney who is right for you? Maybe you’re not sure where to start in terms of finding an estate planning advocate. It can seem like a shot in the dark, but let’s consider some factors which may help you in finding proper representation.
The first consideration is an attorney’s reputation in their community. Many attorneys, especially those in smaller offices, live off their “word of mouth” reputation. While asking neighbors, family, and friends for recommendations is always a great place to start, don’t underestimate your own research efforts! If you already have a positive reputation with an attorney, you might ask who they recommend for estate planning services.
Another indicator for you to consider is an attorney’s professional associations and organizational memberships. One example is involvement with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA), though there are many professional organizations that cater to attorneys in various fields. We know the saying “birds of a feather flock together.” These organizations are also a great place to begin your search.
III. What To Expect
Any attorney worth their salt is going to be interested in you, your family, and the general situation around your case. They’ll probably ask you some questions to get to know you a bit: your career, your expectations, and what you think retirement should look like. During your first consultation you’ll likely discuss how many children or grandchildren you have, how many marriages you’ve had, and other similar details. Next, you’ll talk about your assets, such as your savings, any property you own, and your employer’s retirement plan. You’ll probably talk about your retirement goals, both in general and financial terms. Be sure to discuss any loved ones who may have special needs or other issues that are important for your attorney to know. A competent estate planning attorney can go over your options to ensure these people are properly protected and served by your estate even after you’re gone.
Remember, it defeats the purpose of a consultation to withhold information from your attorney. After all, how can your attorney take your circumstances into account if you aren’t open with them? Your estate planning attorney is your biggest ally and they will work with the information you provide to create a customized estate plan that accomplishes your goals in ways you didn’t know were possible. It’s important to remember that your attorney has a duty of confidentiality when it comes to your personal information.
IV. After The Meeting
Once you’ve discussed everything of importance and left the meeting, your attorney will first enter copious notes into their internal systems. Then your attorney (or someone under their supervision) will draft the documents needed to complete your estate plan. Once those documents are completed, your attorney’s office will review them for accuracy and contact you with any questions or corrections they may have, or for any documents they may need from you. Finally, once any revisions are made, your attorney’s office will help you set up a time to meet with them and sign (finalize) your estate plan.
Remember, you can ask questions! If you still have questions, ask them again! Your attorney’s goal is simple: to ensure that you, your estate, and your loved ones are protected to the best of your attorney’s ability. You share the same goal. After you leave their office, you should have a reasonable understanding of everything you just discussed, the pros and cons of any decisions you need to make, and a sense of satisfaction in knowing you’ve just partnered with a legal professional who is on your side and looking out for your best interests. Like any relationship, communication is key for a positive legal experience.