The questions you may ask your estate planning attorney are similar to those of an elder law attorney. The first two questions to ask are about their experience with helping people with creating estate plans and what type of results they have achieved for their clients. However, a more in-depth and critical third question is whether they have a three-step process that ensures a healthy and effective estate plan.
It is essential to ask your estate planning attorney about the three-step process because it is typical for an estate planning attorney to just complete the first step of creating a will or trust for their client. However, this really doesn’t serve the client. Further, suppose they just make a will. In that case, this is an admission ticket to the probate court. It can also become outdated after a period of time which is not helpful.
The first two steps in the three-step process are creating a plan, such as a trust fund, and then actively completing trust funding. This means getting your treasures into your treasure chest, also known as your trust fund. These treasures may include whatever you own, such as your home, your investment assets, your life insurance, and your retirement accounts. These assets need to be retitled into your trust fund because that’s where you achieve all the protections from the metaphorical four-headed monster. This four-headed monster consists of costs from the probate court, estate death tax, financial creditors and predators, and the potential for long-term care.
If the attorney is just creating a will or a trust, it is important to ask if they can help you complete the remaining steps in the three-step process. Can they help you fund your trust and retitle your assets from your name as an individual to your name as a trustee of your trust? Do they have someone that can assist you, such as a trust funding coordinator on their staff, to help you retitle your assets? These are critical questions because without completing the trust funding, all your assets could still end up in a probate court.
The third step in the process is keeping your estate plan updated when there are changes in the law, changes in life with your health, finances, and relationships, or even changes in learning in the estate planning industry. You want to know that you have an attorney who will reach out to you and notify you when there’s a change in law or a change in learning in the industry and how they will update your plan for you. You will also need to know the process when you need to come back to your estate planning attorney when you have changes in your life.
You may ask them if they have a client care program or a legacy protection program, such as the one created at our firm. These types of programs generally allow you to come back into the attorney’s office and get your plan updated without paying additional exorbitant fees.
Creating a plan, funding your trust, and monitoring your trust as you journey through life are all crucial steps. However, completing only the first step will not be an effective estate plan. You must know that although the day you signed your trust is essential, what is more important is the day in the future, potentially during a disability or death, when your plan needs to go into effect. You need to know it’s adequately updated and ready to work. Having an estate planning attorney that completes all three steps will allow you to feel confident that your family and legacy are protected.
We specialize in educating and helping you protect what you have for the people you love the most. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.