What to Expect at our First Estate Planning Consultation
We have found that our time and yours is used more productively when financial and family information is assembled and provided to us prior to the meeting. It will help us prepare if you would complete and return just the Estate Planning Personal Information Booklet at least 2 days prior to our initial consultation. That will give us time to develop some familiarity with you and your situation prior to our meeting. If you have not had the opportunity to prepare for this meeting by completing and returning the information to us, we would appreciate it if you would call ahead, let us know that you need more time, and reschedule the meeting.
Occasionally clients ask to interview us before they provide detailed personal information. If you prefer, call us after you review this information and tell us that you would rather meet us briefly first to make sure that we can work well together, and we will be happy to arrange a convenient time.
If you decide to provide us with information in advance of the initial consultation, please know that we do not charge a fee for our initial client consultation, which usually lasts about 2 hours. During this time we will explore all the personal and financial issues that affect the development of your estate plan, including, where necessary, the impending repeal of the estate tax over the next several years, followed by its scheduled reenactment beginning in 2011.
If you have special issues that we need to discuss in more detail, or your estate is larger than the amount that can be exempt from estate tax ($3,500,000 for single individuals, and $7,000,000 for married couples using an "A/B Trust" beginning in 2009), we will usually need to allow more time for the initial consultation. We also enjoy working with your trusted advisers in the development and implementation of the plan, so if you would like to bring a family member, financial adviser, accountant or attorney to the initial consultation, please let us know so that we can make arrangements.
The initial consultation is an opportunity for us to learn about you, your loved ones, and your hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations for yourselves and your family. We will want to learn much more than simply what assets you have and who should get them after you are gone. Once we know what you want to accomplish with your estate planning we will outline a plan to meet your specific needs, and we will quote you a fixed fee for providing those services.
Each plan we create is uniquely tailored to meet your individual planning goals, and the fees we charge are based on the amount of effort and complexity that is involved in the development and implementation of the plan, and the results we can achieve for you. Since everyone wants to know "how much is this going to cost?" before they commit to the estate planning process, what we generally tell our clients is that a typical fee for creating a comprehensive living trust-based estate plan, for either a single client or a couple, ranges from $3,000 to $4,000. This includes all of the client counseling needed to design and draft the essential estate planning documents, including your advance medical and health care directives, but does not include the asset transfers, discussed in more detail below.
Since one of your goals will undoubtedly be to avoid probate and guardianship entirely, it is necessary to transfer ownership of your assets (real estate, bank and brokerage accounts, etc.) to the living trust, or confirm the proper beneficiary designations (for retirement plan assets, annuities, and life insurance). While some clients wish to do this on their own, if we are retained to transfer your assets and update these beneficiary designations, we will charge an additional fee for this service, which typically this adds $500 to $1,500 to the total planning fee. Whatever our total fee will be, however, you will be fully advised before we begin to incur any charges on your behalf.
Please note, however, that the fees quoted above generally apply to a basic living trust-based estate plan. If your needs require more sophisticated planning elements, such as asset protection planning for the surviving spouse or other beneficiaries, advanced income tax planning for retirement plan assets, business succession planning for your small business, multi-generational planning for grandchildren and future generations, planning for loved ones with "special needs" or the development of more sophisticated "zero-estate tax" planning strategies, we charge an additional fee depending upon what is required to achieve your goals.
We take pride in the estate planning services we provide, and we expect that you will be completely satisfied with our professional services. We view the estate planning relationship as a dynamic, ongoing one, and we encourage our clients to take a holistic view of the process. We look forward to our clients coming back to us over the years as their needs change, their families change, their estate changes, and the tax laws change.
We thank you for involving us in this important part of your lives, and we look forward to working with you in earnest to achieve your goals for yourself and your loved ones through proper estate planning.