I often have clients who are refferred to me for the purposes of Estate Planning and are curious about how the process works. Many clients call my office about a Will or a Trust. Generally, the process involves an initial phone interview where I ask high level questions such as if the client is married, has children and if they own any real property or other substantial assets. That allows me to get a feel for the client's estate planning needs.
For most individuals or couples who own a home or another substantial asset I recommend a Living Trust, Pour Over Will, Advanced Healthcare Directive, and Durable. Once I assess the client's general needs, I typically send an intake form. The intake form consists of questions about how the client would like to distribute their assets once they pass away, what assets they own, who they would like to administer their estate after they pass away. Also, the intake form asks them if who their backups are in case one of the people who are to inherit their property or serve as a trustee predeceases them. Finally, the intake form asks questions regarding healthcare directives and durable power of attorneys such as who the person will be to handle their legal and financial affairs once they pass away.
Once I receive this intake form, it typically takes about 2 weeks to prepare the Living Trust, Pour Over Will, Healthcare Directive, Durable Powers of Attorney and any deeds for real property which will be titled into trust. These documents are then witnessed and/or notarized as appropriate. After the documents are finalized, there are still some important details that are not to be forgotten. First, any deeds to Real Property must be recorded in the county recorder's office. Second, personal and financial assets such as investment and retirement accounts may be changed to reflect that these assets are titled in the name of the Trust. Finally, it is generally a good idea to inform successor trustees, executors and people who are named as power of attorney that they have been named as such and provide them with a copy of these documents. My clients also maintain a copy of the documents in a safe place, and the attorney's office maintains physical and electronic copies of these files.
Of course, this process varies from office to office and also individuals have different needs so that the process might look slightly different for some people, but overall, the above process is what to expect in general when one contacts my office for Estate Planning services.
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