Getting the Most from an Estate Planning Initial Consultation

Getting the Most from an Estate Planning Initial Consultation – Part I
The first step in getting your estate plan established is preparing for the initial attorney consultation.  You should have two goals in mind for the initial consultation: 1) determining whether the attorney is right for you; and, 2) deciding, with the attorney, on the right estate plan.
What do I mean when I say “determining whether the attorney is right for you?”  Well, among other things, do you communicate well together?  Do you understand her?  Does she understand you?  Do the suggestions make sense to you?  Are you comfortable talking to her?  You will likely have some sort of relationship with your attorney for a long time.  You don’t have to be BFFs, but you shouldn’t feel dread or fear when you need to call her.
Helping the attorney guide you to the right estate plan requires a bit of preparation on your part.  Before the attorney can help you decide what to do with your estate, the attorney must have a good idea what your estate is – and so should you. 
Putting this information together shouldn’t take much time.  Most of it is delivered to you by mail or email on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.  You just need to gather it up, review it, and make it available to your attorney at the initial consultation. 
Put together a folder with the most recent statement on each of your bank accounts; checking, savings and money market.  Add the most recent statements from any brokerage accounts.  Bring the most recent property tax statement for the real estate you own.  Copy the declarations page from your life, liability, homeowners and automobile insurance policies (the declarations page shows what your coverage amounts or limits are).  If you collect anything – cars, guns, art, action figures – estimate the value of the collection.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people overlook antiques and collectibles when they think about their assets. 
Once this information is in a folder, you are nearly ready to go to your initial consultation.  Next time, we’ll discuss the final step you need to take before meeting with the attorney.
Now is a good time to set up the initial appointment.  This may seem self-evident, but many of us fail to get things done because we fail to take that first small step.  You may know exactly what you want, but if you never meet with an attorney to have your estate planning documents prepared, you’ll never get it done. If you haven’t already done so, pick up the phone and call an attorney experienced in estate planning.  Like me, many offer free consultation.  No cost, no risk to you, other than your time.  It’s a busy time of year, but you can find a couple of minutes to pick up the phone and make the call.  You’ll be glad you did.
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