Meeting an attorney for your first estate planning meeting can be daunting. Some attorneys use an “Estate Planning Questionnaire” or something similar prior to the client coming in for a meeting. This way the attorney can collect some demographic information prior to the meeting and save some type.
We have decided against using questionnaires. In our experience, we have found that questionnaires may sometimes confuse or overwhelm clients and are returned incomplete or with unclear answers. Most questionnaires that we have seen include legal jargon common in the estate planning world that non-lawyer's do not understand. We find it better to explain any “legalese” to the client in person.
Instead, we spend time at the initial meeting getting to know our clients and the potential assets, debts, and family that the client may have in person. There are risks to this method too. For example, a client may not recall certain information about financial accounts or really needs to think about executor choices or making certain gifts.
When going to an attorney's office for your first estate planning meeting here are some things to keep in mind:
- Know the full names and the addresses of each person you wish to inherit in your will.
- Have a general understanding of assets and debts. You don't need to recall each and every financial account with perfect precision, but it's okay to have a conversation in general terms.
- If you are seeking joint representation in a will with a spouse; speak to your spouse prior to the first meeting. You want to make sure that you both have the same estate planning goals. One spouse may believe that Uncle John would make a great executor another spouse thinks a longtime friend would be a better choice.
In the end, the initial client meeting in an estate planning matter should be worry free. Whether you are seeking your first estate planning documents or updating old ones, it is a good idea to have a plan in place prior to meeting your attorney!