A will is an authorized and legal document in which you assert who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can consist of large things of high value such as a home, and/or small items of value like jewelry, and/or items that hold sentimental value like photographs.
A will can also declare who you’d like to become the guardian for minor children or dependents, and who you’d like to receive specific items.
An executor, someone you name in the will, executes your declared wishes. Anyone designated to receive property is a beneficiary.
A trust, which can be arranged in a variety of ways, is a fiduciary agreement specifying how and when assets are to pass from the trustee, who hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries, to a beneficiary or beneficiaries.
A trust can minimize estate taxes and offer other benefits as part of a well-formed estate plan.
The Process – How it Works
I am often asked, “How do I get my will and other documents done?”
Our firm has a three-step process:
- The Initial Meeting: I provide no cost, no obligation consultations. At our initial meeting, I can find out your specific circumstances and your overall wishes and goals. Based upon that information, I can make recommendations regarding what planning should be done. I usually can quote you a flat fee for all of the services at the initial meeting.
- The Drafting Process: After our initial meeting, I will prepare drafts based on what planning we discussed at our initial meeting. I generally have drafts mailed to you within 2 weeks after our initial meeting. This gives you the opportunity to make any changes or corrections to your documents before they are finalized. This also allows you to become familiar with the legal language that is used and to ask any questions to make sure you are comfortable that your wishes are being expressed. You do not need to make an appointment to discuss any changes or questions, but you are more than welcome to meet with me prior to the final stage.
- The Signing Ceremony: Once you have communicated any changes and/or corrections to me, I will finalize your documents and we can set a final appointment for you to come in and sign. I will arrange two witnesses and a notary who will need to be present. Believe it or not, the actual signing of your estate planning documents is critical and can invalidate your documents if not done correctly.
At the final appointment, I will give you additional materials that will assist you in coordinating all of your planning and will discuss with you where to go from here, such as where to keep your documents and whether to make copies.
After that, I recommend that you set an appointment with our firm every 2 to 3 years to review any changes in your circumstances and to assess whether there have been any changes in the law that affect your planning. For a checklist on when to review and/or update your documents, please see our FAQ.