A Wealth Planning Session is just a fancy way of saying initial consultation. However, we do so much more in our wealth planning session than many other attorneys do in an initial consultation that we really didn’t think it was appropriate to call them by the same name.
What Happens During a Typical Initial Consultation
If you are interested in getting your estate plan put together, you can go to any number of lawyers that may offer you a “free initial consultation”. Here’s what you can expect at this meeting.
First, you will notice that after you call, you will usually get an appointment within the next couple of days. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just the way many lawyers work.
After the appointment is set, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork ahead of time. They may email you a pdf questionnaire or perhaps you will be given a clipboard when you get to the office.
After you finish your paperwork, you will be taken to a conference room or perhaps the lawyer’s office to go over your paperwork and discuss your needs.
The lawyer will ask you about “why you came in today” or “what are you looking to do”, and will then do one of two things. Either they will start asking you questions about how you want your property divided after you pass away, which is typical, or they will launch into a short educational discussion about what estate planning is and which documents they believe you will need.
After a bit of back and forth for 20-30 minutes, they will let you know what the cost would be to prepare the documents you asked for or a full-blown estate plan. Presumably, they would answer any questions you have about the process or planning in general before you agreed to hire them as your estate planning lawyer.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with this approach. Many clients go through this process (my wife and I did when we first met with an estate planning lawyer before the birth of our first child), and they get a set of good estate planning documents as a result.
How Our Wealth Planning Session is Different
The first thing you will notice when you try to schedule an appointment with our office for a Wealth Planning Session is that we typically book out these appointments 10-14 days ahead of time. So if you were to call us today, chances are we won’t be able to see you for at least two weeks.
Why the wait?
There are two reasons that we won’t be able to see you for at least two weeks. The first is that, unlike other lawyers that either email you a simple questionnaire or have you fill out paperwork in their office, we send you, via priority mail, a large packet of information prior to your meeting.
This packet includes information about our firm, the estate planning process in general, and an in-depth family wealth inventory document.
You see, we don’t just send you a questionnaire to fill out, we have a fairly robust family wealth inventory document for you to complete. We do this so that, even if you don’t work with us after the initial wealth planning session, you will start to develop a sense of how complicated your financial life might be in the event something were to happen to you, and so that you can start getting organized financially.
We ask you to return this completed family wealth inventory, as well as, a personalized folder with a list of requested financial documents, at least seventy-two (72) hours prior to your scheduled wealth planning session.
Why return this information prior to your session? Because the lawyer conducting your wealth planning session will be reviewing this information ahead of time so that they can tailor the discussion during your wealth planning session to topics and issues that are most relevant to your particular situation.
So to get all this done and returned to our firm typically takes our clients at least a week to ten days.
Now, I know I said there was a second reason that we schedule our meetings out at least two weeks. And that reason is more practical in nature. We are busy, and we block off specific slots for these planning sessions. When they are booked, they are booked.
So even if we didn’t have to push the meeting out for you to complete our paperwork ahead of time, we would still be pushing the meeting so that we can find a time slot to meet with you.
A Proven Agenda for Our Wealth Planning Session
Once you get to our office, you will be offered coffee or water, and shown into our friendly conference room, where a lawyer will meet with you on time and ready to proceed with your session.
We value your time, and always strive to start these meetings promptly and on time. We don’t want you waiting around twiddling your thumbs any more than you do!
At the beginning of the meeting, we will take a few brief minutes to tell you about our firm, and our history. You can read more about that here.
After that, we will start asking you a series of questions to uncover your dreams and desires, and determine your goals for what YOU want out of your estate plan. Along the way, we will strive to answer any questions you may have about the process or estate planning in general.
At some point, we will go up to our whiteboard and take some time to teach you about what would happen to your assets and children in the event that you walk out on life or otherwise become incapacitated. This is probably the most important part of the meeting, as most people don’t fully understand the implications of failing to plan.
After this, we will begin a discussion of how estate planning might benefit you. We will revisit the goals you shared at the beginning of the meeting and discuss how a proper estate plan would help you to reach those goals.
At the conclusion of the meeting, which usually takes about an hour, we will determine whether there is a fit between you and our firm. If there is a fit, and we can determine that the cost of planning is less than the cost that would be imposed on your heirs if you walked out on life, then we will decide on a planning level and start the process of designing your plan.
Whether we mutually decide to work together on a plan for you or not, we are confident that you will leave the planning session as a more informed consumer and confident on the next steps you need to take to ensure that your family is protected.
Common Questions About the Wealth Planning Session
Here are just a few of the common questions that people ask when they call to schedule a wealth planning session.
Is There a Charge for the Wealth Planning Session?
We value our Wealth Planning Session at $350 if you have no current plan in place, or $450 if you do have a current plan in place. However, if you are willing to complete all the homework and paperwork we discussed previously, and return it to our office prior to your planning session, then we are currently willing to waive the fee for this session. NOTE: As we become busier and busier, this may not always be the case. So book your Wealth Planning Session now and take advantage of this tremendous offer!
Do Both Me and My Spouse Have to Attend?
We do require that both you and your spouse attend the wealth planning session. If for some reason you cannot both attend, we would have to charge for the session.
How Much Does it Cost to Prepare an Estate Plan?
All of our legal fees are flat fees that are agreed to in advance. There will never be any surprises when it comes to your legal bill. As we discussed above, a decision will be made about an hour into the planning meeting regarding whether we both feel that it would be appropriate to work together.
We want you to feel comfortable with us as your estate planning lawyers, and we need to feel comfortable with you as a client. If you decide that you do want to move forward and prepare a plan, we will go over our estate planning packages with you.
Our fees generally range between $2,000 for a basic will-based plan up to as high as $8,000 for a complex plan with numerous types of assets.
Also, you should understand that ever single one of our plans comes with a Kids Emergency Action Plan ($1,000 value) in the event you have minor children, as well as a Legacy Conversation ($500 value) that will take place during your third meeting with our office when we deliver your plan documents to you.
I Talked to Another Estate Planning Lawyer that is Willing to Draft a Trust for $1,000…
Listen, there are many estate planning attorneys in our community who are in the business of preparing documents.
We’ve found, and I know that many lawyers would agree, that a large number of those plans fail because assets are not titled properly in the name of the trust, or the plan is not updated regularly.
Our firm is very different.
WE don’t just put in place form documents for you that simply will not work when your family needs them. We have developed a step by step process that supports you to know and understand that you’ve done the right thing by your family. The plan that you develop with our office will work for your loved ones when they need it the most.
If you would prefer just to put in place a trust document or a simple will that may or may not work when your family needs it to, then we recommend that you go online and do that cheaply through any number of online services.
You don’t need a lawyer to do that for you, and paying a lawyer $1,000 to prepare a simple trust is actually overpaying for something that is likely not going to work when your family needs it the most.
How Can I Schedule a Wealth Planning Session?
All you need to do to get started on the road to protecting your family is to schedule your wealth planning session. You may call our office at (919) 460-5422 or fill out our online contact form.