Contact our office to schedule an initial meeting (phone 434-817-4001). Please print out and complete our estate planning questionnaire and bring it with you to our first meeting. If you prefer, you may contact our office and we will mail one to you. Our offices are located at 304 Hickman Road on Pantops Mountain. You can find directions on the first page of the questionnaire or on our Contact Us page.
The first meeting will last 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the complexity of your situation and our recommendations. We will (i) review the information you have provided on the questionnaire, (ii) discuss your planning objectives, (iii) consider the effect of estate taxes on your estate plan, if any, (iv) determine if trust planning is appropriate for children or other beneficiaries, (v) discuss strategies to enable your loved ones to reduce or even eliminate a court-supervised probate of your estate through beneficiary designations and revocable trust agreements, and (vi) discuss the best persons or institutions to serve as executors under your wills, trustees under your revocable trust agreement, guardians of your minor children, and agents under your financial and medical powers of attorney. At the conclusion of our first meeting, we will present our planning recommendation. The plan will include the suggested ownership of real estate and investment assets and beneficiary designations for life insurance, annuity policies and retirement accounts. After the plan has been discussed and your questions answered, we generally quote a fixed fee for the estate plan. If the proposed fee is agreeable, we will schedule a time for our next meeting and begin drafting your will, trust agreement, etc.
At the conclusion of our first meeting, we normally set an appointment for our next meeting. Depending on our workload, we generally set that meeting about six weeks out, but we have the capacity to respond to emergencies.
Our goal is to send draft documents to the client within four weeks of your decision to proceed, so that you may review them well in advance of our second meeting. The drafts will be either sent to your digitally (via email) or paper copies will be sent out via U.S. Mail. Along with the documents, we will provide a written summary of what the documents are designed to accomplish.
It is our strong preference that our clients sign their documents in our office with witnesses and notaries that we supply to ensure that all legal formalities are observed. (See our changes to this process due to COVID-19 here). Clients usually (but not always) sign their documents at the conclusion of our second meeting.
We will prepare and mail to you a binder containing your original estate planning documents and will enclose our invoice inside the binder.
We will also include a comprehensive letter of instruction detailing how real estate and investment assets should be titled, how beneficiary designations should read, and similar guidance. We often send a digital copy of the letter and the documents to a client’s financial advisor, when requested to do so.
Client’s To-Do List
For many of our clients, a great deal of the wealth they will pass on to their loved ones will consist of the proceeds of life insurance policies and retirement plan accounts. These assets typically pass by beneficiary designations and are not necessarily governed by the terms of a client’s will.
In some client situations, it may be desirable to re-title real estate or investment accounts after the execution of their estate planning documents.
Therefore, we include a comprehensive letter to our clients containing our recommendations as to the correct beneficiary designations and the titling or real estate and financial accounts. We are available to assist you with any follow-up measures we recommend. For illustrative purposes, here is a template of a letter we might use with a married couple:
Dear Clark and Lois:
I am enclosing the original wills, powers of attorney, medical directives and joint trust agreement that you signed in my office on April 11, 2018. I am also enclosing my billing statement. As requested, I am sending you a digital copy of this letter and these documents via email.
It is important you keep the originals in a safe place. If your will or power of attorney ever needs to be used, third parties will almost certainly require the original. For that reason, I had you sign two originals of each power of attorney. On the other hand, hospitals and doctors routinely accept copies of medical directives.
Please check the titling on your financial accounts and the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement accounts. I am sending a copy of this letter and your documents to your financial advisor Jimmy Olsen as I understand he may help you implement some of the recommendations that follow. I welcome any questions you or he may have.
1. Banking and Investment Accounts. For your savings, checking and investment accounts, I suggest you title them in your joint names as “Clark Kent and Lois Lane, tenants by the entirety.” If the financial institution does not offer this option, you should title the accounts as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship.” If you keep any investment accounts in separate names, I recommend you contact the financial institution where those accounts are located and arrange to add a P.O.D. (payable-on-death) or T.O.D. (transfer-on-death) designation on each account naming your spouse as beneficiary. This could save significant probate expense upon your death.
2. Retirement Accounts. Clark should name Lois as primary beneficiary on his IRA’s or other retirement accounts. Lois should name Clark as primary beneficiary on her retirement accounts. You should both name your two children as equal contingent beneficiaries (per stirpes). If you prefer to transfer those assets into the asset protection trusts we created for each child, your contingent beneficiary designations should read as follows:
A. 50% to “the trust established for Bruce Wayne Kent under Article III of the Lane-Kent Joint Trust Agreement dated April 11, 2018.”
B. 50% to “the trust established for Kal Jorel Kent under Article III of the Lane-Kent Joint Trust Agreement dated April 11, 2018.”
3. Life Insurance. Clark should name Lois as primary beneficiary on his life insurance policies. Lois should name Clark as primary beneficiary on her life insurance policies. You should both name “the Lane-Kent Joint Trust Agreement dated April 11, 2018” as contingent beneficiary. Here are answers to certain questions the beneficiary form may ask when you name the trust as beneficiary: (i) TIN – the SSN of the owner of the policy, (ii) Relationship – my living trust, and (iii) date of birth – April 11, 2018.
4. Real Estate. I understand your Metropolis brownstone and your Smallville summer home are both titled in your joint names, as tenants by the entirety. If true, I do not recommend any changes in titling.
5. Online Access to Accounts. If you transact banking or brokerage business online, it is vital that you leave your Executor with sufficient information to locate your online accounts. I recommend you maintain a master list that (i) identifies your online accounts and (ii) contains your user names, passwords and other information necessary to access these accounts. You can make use of the template you will find online at this link: digitalpassing.com/digital-audit/. For obvious reasons, this document needs to kept secure.
6. Umbrella Insurance. I recommend you obtain (or maintain in force) an umbrella insurance policy that will raise the liability coverage on your homeowner and automobile insurance policies. A $2 million umbrella costs about $500 per year. You can generally obtain this coverage through the same company that provides your automobile insurance. This is important coverage for you to have.
We recommend that at least every five years we review your estate planning documents together to determine whether they still make the best sense for you and your family. We will not contact you to schedule such a meeting, but encourage you to contact us. Of course, please feel free to call the firm at any time if you think we can be of help. We appreciate your confidence in having us do this work for you.