By Stephen J. Smith
The Family Vision Experience™
You have contacted us and made an appointment for estate planning. We are mailing (with this article) our Starter Kit, including hints on filling it out. This article is intended to give you quick overview of our unique way of doing estate planning, which we call The Family Vision Experience.
The Starter Kit has three parts:
- Information about you and your loved ones
- What’s in a name? We urge you to make sure your name is as it is shown on your driver’s license and that all other names you give us are correct (not nicknames or informal versions, for instance). Our experience has been that since 9/11, banks really want to see your name as on your driver’s license and see that name match what is on your trust and other documents. We save everyone a lot of hassle if we get fussy about getting your name right from the beginning.
- Asset information
- The Dangers Checklist. Hint: be sure to “fill it out.” This could mean just circling the dangers you relate to in your life, but feel free to add notes to help us understand how a particular danger is a concern. Filling this out could make the meeting go faster because you give us an advance idea of your particular concerns.
We need to receive your completed Starter Kit before our initial meeting, so we can assess your probable needs and plan the initial meeting, You also have the option to ask us to give you a call after we have reviewed your Starter Kit to discuss the probable scope of our work and receive an estimate the cost.
At the initial meeting we go in this order:
- Finish the process of gathering information about you.
- Teach you what you need to know about what happens without planning and teach you about appropriate tools we use to help you (will, trust, powers of attorney and so forth).
- We will make recommendations and map out, usually in a set of diagrams, the results of your decisions as you make them during the meeting.
Many clients when calling to make an appointment say they “want a will.” You can see that decision (what you decide you need) comes in step 3, above. Every client for whom we do estate planning gets a will. Many will also benefit from a trust, and if that is true for you, then by the end of our meeting you will know that and, more importantly, why. Powers of attorney are important to plan for the chance of your incapacity.
After the meeting we usually send you a message with a fee quote, once we know the scope of the work. For initial work, we almost always are able to make it a flat amount, so you have certainty. By this point if not at the very beginning, we have also set a signing date.
We send drafts, along with an explanatory cover letter, enough ahead of the signing meeting so you can read everything and let us know if you have questions or changes, and while we stress giving all names in the Starter Kit in the form you want to see them in your will and other documents, if you discover a name or contact information in a draft documents is wrong, please let us know before the signing meeting so we can have the document ready for you to sign.
At the signing meeting we always make sure you are comfortable with the documents before you sign. Then you sign. If you are doing a trust, then there is a key further part of this meeting to teach you how to implement the trust, and we have a unique approach contained in what we call The One Source Book¸ which provides a unified solution for your estate planning. Clients tell us they really love the book.
Finally, we ask clients to see this all as a process, not a once-in-a-lifetime transaction. Circumstances change. Tax laws change. Wisconsin’s laws affecting estate planning have changed a lot in the last 10 years, for instance. People you have named (or had been waiting to name because they were too young) get older, a common driver of revising your plan. We don’t let you leave without telling us when you next want us to check in with you to see about a review meeting.
We focus not only on planning for your death but also on the risk of your becoming incapacitated before you die. Our clients express a real sense of satisfaction when they finish our process. Our goal is to ensure you become a full participant, understanding the process and feeling like you own the result!
© 2019 by Stephen J. Smith
creator, The Family Vision Experience™