Duggan Law Firm's Estate Planning Process
Step 1 - Preparing for the Initial Meeting
The process begins by calling our firm and setting up an appointment for the initial meeting. You can download and print the Client Questionnaire where you to fill in important personal information about your family, your financial assets and your desired fiduciaries. The purpose of the Questionnaire is to assist us in making the first meeting as productive as possible. Consequently, we prefer that you complete it and return it to us prior to our first meeting. If this is not possible however, you may complete it and bring it with you to the meeting. At this point in the process, we don't expect you to search for every document or provide us with every financial detail. Instead you should concentrate on the amount, type and ownership (husband, wife or joint) of your assets. If you own life insurance you should indicate if it's a term or permanent policy and provide us with the name of the owner, the insured and the beneficiary(s).
Step 2 - The Initial Meeting
Our first meeting forms the basis of our relationship. During this time together, we will answer all of your questions concerning our firm, what we do, and the overall planning process. Even more importantly, it is a time for us to listen, and learn about you. We will ask you about your family and your goals, your values and aspirations, and whether there is any particular situation that prompted you to come to our office that you would like to address. The more we learn about you, your family and your wishes, the more value we can provide in assisting you with leaving a lasting legacy. We will also educate you on the basic law. If you have done any previous planning, we will ask to review your documents so that we can provide appropriate recommendations.
Step 3 - The Design Meeting
Prior to the second meeting we will send you an engagement letter with a description of the documents required for your plan along with the anticipated legal fee. We ask that you sign and send it back to us together with one half of our fee prior to this meeting. Because we find that clients prefer not to be presented with hourly bills, we provide a flat fee whenever possible.
The second meeting is when we discuss the planning strategy in its entirety and provide you with a summary of the overall plan. The objective of our plan summary is to simplify the discussion concentrating on an overall understanding of what the plan entails. At this point, we want to make sure that you are comfortable that all of your wishes have been addressed including any issues left open from our previous meeting. We will also explain the funding of you plan and provide instructions as to what that process involves.
Depending on the complexity of your plan and your personal desires, additional meetings or conferences calls may be required to fine tune your plan and ensure that it accomplishes your goals.
Step 4 - The Signing Ceremony
Once your plan is designed, we will schedule a conference where you will sign the documents for your estate plan. The signing ceremony will usually take place about three weeks after your plan is designed. At this meeting we will explain all of the documents and answer any questions that you may have.
Step 5 - Executing the Plan
We feel that many estate planning attorneys fall short here. Even the most innovative and well drafted plan is ineffective unless properly administered and funded. Therefore in addition to executing the plan documents, during the signing meeting, we offer to assist you with funding the plan. In the event you choose to fund the plan without our assistance, we make sure that we have advised you of what is entailed.
Step 6 - Updating the Plan
Be alert for the need to update your estate plan. Your Will, Trust and other documents are not meant to be carved in stone. Changes in your family, your property values, and your relationships may require corresponding changes in your estate plan. Changes in the tax law can also require changes in your estate plan if you wish to minimize the effect of estate and gift taxes.