What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a process designed to allow you to control your property while you are alive and well; plan for yourself and your loved ones in the event of your disability and then give what you have, to whom you want, when you want, the way you want; along with the development of a life-long relationship with a legal professional to provide assistance to your family in the event of disability or death.
We help co-create estate plans that embrace your vision, so you can protect your family, including your pets and provide for those you love.
Estate planning includes understanding the relationship between how you own your assets, beneficiary designations and the legal documents that support your plan. It also includes the proper selection and appointment of “helpers” including personal representatives, trustees, agents, guardians for minors and caregivers for pets.
Estate planning is not a one-time activity, but instead a life-long commitment that contemplates the ongoing change experienced in your life, your legacy, the law and ultimately, your lawyer’s experience.
A comprehensive estate plan will, at a minimum, include:
- A Last Will
- Personal Property Memorandum
- A Durable Financial Power of Attorney
- A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney (Health Care Surrogate)
- A Living Will (for end of life decision making)
- A Pre-Need Guardian Declaration
- Organ Donation Declaration (if desired)
- Your Memorial Instructions and directions regarding burial or cremation
In addition, many estate plans may include a Revocable Living Trust or other Advanced Planning Trusts for the purpose of reducing exposure to estate taxes, the preservation of assets for long term care or for charitable giving purposes.
What is the Estate Planning Process?
Our estate planning process begins with education. You are invited to attend a complimentary educational workshop on Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning, Special Needs Planning or Pet Planning. This choice is yours. Workshops are helpful in answering questions before you meet with an attorney, but they are optional and not required.
If you need to do your estate planning, you are then invited to meet with one of our four (4) qualified attorneys who can answer your questions. Your first in-person meeting is called the Discovery and Decision Dialogue. The fee for this meeting is $200 for estate planning and will be applied to the cost of your planning. In this approximately 90-minute meeting you will teach us about you and your family, we’ll teach you about the law and how it affects your family and together we will explore the options (Wills or Trusts) to protect your family and meet your estate planning goals.
The next step is our Counselling phase where we will work together in a Design Meeting to co-create your customized estate plan. At this meeting we will teach you the questions you didn’t even know you needed to ask in making the important decisions to create a Will or Trust based estate plan.
The Signing Ceremony is next. At this meeting we will review and explain all of the legal directives that comprise your customized estate plan. You’ll sign your estate plan at this meeting making all of your wishes effective at this time. You will take your completed estate plan home so you can review each instrument in the privacy of your own home. Any questions or changes can be answered at any time.
Some clients will elect to participate in our Estate Security Plan (ESP for short) where we will assist you with reviewing all of your asset ownership and beneficiary designations. We will help you complete the forms and the process for making sure your plan and your assets are fully integrated. We are also happy to work with your trusted advisors including CPAs, financial advisors or other professionals.
The ESP program doesn’t stop there, it is designed as a lifetime, ongoing updating, education and maintenance program. Participation allows you complimentary access to our team by phone and email. Estate plan amendments are included, along with specialty workshops and client events. Every two to three years, we will encourage you to update your planning to stay current with your family circumstances and the law. At death or disability, we are there for you and your family to ensure a smooth and harmonious transition. Estate administration fees are discounted as an additional incentive to participate in the ESP program.
Educational Workshop (Optional)
Join us in our classroom, for an interactive workshop designed to educate families about general estate planning principles, the federal estate and gift tax structures, and the importance of implementing and maintaining a relevant estate plan. We highly recommend you attend an educational workshop, but it is optional. Click here to see when our next estate planning workshop will be held. (Complimentary)
Discovery and Decision Dialogue
Discuss client and attorney commitments; you teach us about you and your family. We teach you about the law and how it affects your family. Then, together we can explore optimum planning solutions. (One and a half hour one-on-one consultation. Consultation Fee $200.00 – Applied to planning fee.)
Counselling and Design Meeting
We will work with you, your family, and advisors (optional) to custom design your plan. (1/2 of your fee is due.)
We review and sign all drafted documents. (Remaining 1/2 of your fee is due.)
Asset Ownership and Protection; Updating, Education, Maintenance & Support can be provided at an additional fee.
You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for it!
Our ESP Program is designed specifically for those clients who want an updating, education and maintenance program to keep their estate plan relevant throughout the years. As a member of our ESP Program, you are entitled to assistance and education regarding the funding of your trust so your assets are titled correctly and your plan works effectively. You will also be invited to our Annual Client Meeting to hear updates on our firm and the law. Additionally, we offer family educational workshops for your beneficiaries and personal representatives so that they will know what to expect when administering your estate. ESP members are also encouraged to review their planning every three to five years and if there are changes that need to be made, you can update your plan at no additional cost.
Your participation in the Estate Security Plan includes all of the following services and benefits at no additional charge:
Asset Training Meeting – Financial Funding Forum™
To teach you the importance of fully integrating your assets with your trust instructions.
Asset Integration Assistance
To assist you as you acquire new or additional assets (up to 10 assets included – additional charge for additional assets).
Annual Asset Verification
To ensure that your trust remains fully funded.
Personal Instructions / Customized Instructions
For Health Care, Trustee Instructions for Children, Personal Property Memorandum, Memorial Instructions.
Nuts ‘N Bolts I
(Successor Trustee Training) – to educate you and your successors regarding roles and responsibilities as a Successor Trustee.
Nuts ‘N Bolts II
(Inheritance Training) – to educate beneficiaries of the long-term benefits of retaining assets in trust, including creditor protection, remarriage protection, divorce protection and values promotion, to name just a few.
Check our website for our specialty workshops such as Retirement Planning, The Truth About Medicaid Planning, Planning for your Pets, Women In Transition, Special People Special Planning and What to Do When Someone Dies.
We also plan additional specialty workshops on topics of interest for ESP clients only.
Telephone Conferences and Email Correspondence
To provide support and assistance when needed or required.
Document Amendment Service
To respond to changes in your life: your family or personal situation, your lawyers experience, and your legacy.
Annual Client Meeting
To share with you the status of the firm and changes in the law that may affect your plan.
Client Update Program (CUP)
A periodic (every 2 to 3 years) update program to ensure that you are educated and your estate plan is current with changes in the law, changes in our experience and changes in your legacy. The program is conducted in a small group setting. For an individual update program, see Personal Update Program (P.U.P – $500).
Community Builder™ Programs
Fun events intended to include family members and provide an opportunity to share and develop our relationship on an informal basis. Events have included zoo outings, picnics and tailgate parties.
Family Focus™ Newsletter
To keep you updated on changing laws and upcoming events.
To share your vision and your plan with your family.
Reduced fee settlement services
To assure your successors have disclosed and controlled settlement costs.
Survivor Support Program
To ensure your survivors have continued support, education, and counselling in their time of need. Update surviving spouse planning.
The following services are offered to Estate Security Plan participants at a reduced fee.
Personal Counsel and Review ($500)
An individual one-on-one counselling review to discuss major changes in your personal or financial situation, such as divorce, retirement, inheritance, or other changed circumstances.
Personal Update Program (PUP – $500)
A periodic (every 2 to 3 years) update program to ensure that you are educated and your estate plan is current with changes in your life, changes in the law, changes in our experience and changes in your legacy. This program provides for personal one-on-one interaction with our attorneys, conducted in an individual setting.
Advanced Planning (10% discount)
Including Stand Alone Special Needs Trusts, Stretch Inheritance Trusts (IRA Trust), Charitable Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT), Family Limited Partnership and Family Foundations, Business Succession and Exit Plans.