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Steps in the M&D Estate Planning Process
- Set up meeting to come in for your free initial estate planning consultation.
- We will send you a set of documents to help you prepare for this meeting to make it more productive. Of key importance is for you to fill out and bring in our short estate planning questionnaire.
- At your estate planning consultation we will:
- Have a conversation to learn about you and your family, and gather the relevant family and financial information we need in order to assist you in developing an appropriate estate plan.
- Determine your overall estate planning intent and objectives. In other words, what do you want to happen if you ever become incapacitated during your life and eventually upon your death (i.e., when you are no longer able to directly control your affairs).
- Determine the extent that wealth transfer taxes (which include the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer taxes) and income taxes are an issue.
- Determine how to structure your various estate planning documents to best fulfill your overall estate planning intent and objectives, which may include reducing or avoiding the wealth transfer taxes and addressing income taxes which may be payable on tax-deferred assets such as IRA and 401(k) accounts. This process is educational and interactive. Our goal is to make sure you understand your options and the benefits and costs of each one. At Morgan & Disalvo we strongly believe that you are the one in charge and we are here to help you the best way we can.
- Determine who you want to serve in the various fiduciary roles, including Executor, Trustee (if one or more trusts are contemplated), Guardian (for minor children, if any), attorney-in-fact under your Power Of Attorney (for financial and property affairs), and health care agent under your Advance Directive for Health Care (different states use different names for this document, but in Georgia the Advance Directive includes both a health care agent appointment and a Living Will). You will want to name your initial selection and at least one, but preferably at least two, successors in case the initial choice(s) cannot or do not want to serve.
- At this point, you can decide if you would like to engage us to carry out your desired plan. If you decide to engage us, then we will make sure you clearly understand our fees since we do not like and do not want our clients to suffer any negative surprises. In the majority of cases, we can provide you with a fixed fee quote. In this case you will pay the first half of this fee up front (checks and credit cards are accepted) and the second half will be due at the earlier of (1) the date you sign the final documents or (2) one month after we send you the draft legal documents for review. If your plan is complex enough that we cannot determine an appropriate fixed fee, then you will be charged on an hourly basis plus out-of-pocket costs. With hourly matters, you will usually be required to pay an upfront retainer by check. Any retainer will be held in our trust account, and, if any amount is left over at the end of our work, the remaining retainer will be refunded to you. In all cases, we will have you sign an engagement letter setting out the terms or our engagement. On the other hand, if you choose not to engage us after your estate planning consultation, you simply don’t sign an engagement letter, and there is no further obligation. We love to meet new people and spread the word on how estate planning should be done if you really care about what happens to your loved ones after you are gone.
- Assuming you decide to proceed, we will draft the needed documents, and send them to you for your review. Along with the legal documents, we will be sending you various memoranda and a cover letter summarizing and discussing your estate plan. The goal of the cover letter and memoranda is to give you plain English summaries of the legal documents and our recommendations with regard to how you should own your assets and set up your beneficiary designations so that your plan works as intended. We ask you to either call us to discuss the documents and any questions you may have, or to schedule an in-person meeting for this purpose. Once we discuss your questions and address any (usually minor) changes which may be needed, we prepare the finalized documents for signing.
- You will then come into our offices to sign the final documents. We need you to meet with us in person for the signing so that we can best help you ensure that your new estate planning documents are signed properly and will be legally valid under state law.
- After your estate planning documents are properly signed, you may need to change how your assets are owned and/or change your designated beneficiaries, depending on your selected estate planning structure and other factors. Our recommendations in this regard are laid out for you in one of the memoranda that we send to you with the legal documents.
- Clients with significant estate tax issues may put their estate plans in place in multiple phases. In that case, a document signing may need to be followed by additional meetings to develop additional planning techniques and sign any new documents which may be prepared in connection with those additional techniques.
- Once your estate planning documents are finally all signed and in place, we recommend that you review, and possibly update, your estate planning documents at least every three years or so to ensure that the documents still fulfill your estate planning intent and objectives. This periodic review is intended to help ensure that your documents can be adjusted in a timely manner to address any changes in your life, your finances, and/or the state and federal laws involved. We strive to design our documents so that they will self-adjust for many reasonably foreseeable events, and it is not often that major changes are required. However, even if no changes are needed, we do recommend that you execute a new Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care, to help ensure that these documents will be “fresh” and more likely to be respected if and when they are ever needed.