Providing peace of mind when dealing with legal issues.
Before we can help, we need to know what the problem is. Are you nervous about calling an attorney’s office? How about if you could talk to an attorney for a half hour without charge? That’s how we begin. First, let’s get together by phone or in person. If, after the first half hour, you or I believe you cannot be helped here, then we’ll connect you with the people who can help.
For planning clients, the process from start to finish is 3 meetings and 60 days to delivery.
Step One: The Initial Meeting & Design Meeting
Our first meeting is called the initial meeting. This is when you’ll bring your Personal Information Form or PIF with you and we’ll talk about your goals, your hopes, and your concerns. Then we talk about your health, your finances, and your family. Finally, we talk about your options for achieving your goals. We design a solution that fits your unique situation. Many times we can design a solution for you during this initial meeting. Sometimes we need an additional meeting to talk about strategies that best fit a family or a business. This subsequent meeting is called the Design Meeting.
For those with a court matter such as a petition to probate of a will or for guardianship/conservatorship or a will or trust dispute or appeal of a Medicaid or VA denial of benefits, representation begins after the initial meeting and the process for filing and litigating or appealing the matter at issue will follow the timeline for the applicable process. The VA has its own appeals process. Georgia Medicaid appeals are made under administrative law. Probate courts have their own set of rules adopting many of the rules of superior courts. These cases are handled on an hourly basis. Cases are begun with a resolution in mind and we press forward to obtain that solution.
Step Two: Review & Signing Meeting
After the drafting is done, we meet to review your documents, to check for accuracy, make changes, and to answer questions which may have arisen since our first meeting. We cover the custom portions of your planning documents. Some use the phrase “boilerplate” for the boring parts of documents used for many people.
At Wilson Legal, we have invested hours researching and crafting our own language for our documents. We create our own standard. During our review meeting, we talk about how each part of each document works and why we include the language we include; however, we do not read each paragraph to our clients at the review meeting. To do so typically puts the client to sleep and does little good for anyone. Therefore, we review the function of each document as a whole and in part and the people appointed to carry out any function or receive any benefit. Then we ask the client if they are comfortable signing. You may separate the review and the signing meetings. But we will not send you home with drafts of your documents until after the review meeting is complete.
After the review meeting, we sign your documents. The signing may take a half hour or an hour or more depending on any additional questions you or your family accompanying you and any physical limitation you have which might slow you down a bit. Signing meetings require two witnesses and a notary. While myself and my assistant Bonnie are both a witness and notary on our estate plans, we do hire an additional witness to attend signing meetings. If you would like to split your review and signing meetings, we do ask that you let us know as early as possible so that we do not waste our witness’ time coming to a signing meeting which will need to be rescheduled.
STEP THREE: DELIVERY MEETING
We ask that you give us about thirty (30) days to assemble, scan, and bind your original documents and your planning portfolio. At the end of that thirty (30) day period, we have a delivery meeting. Why? You may ask. I used to mail the completed estate plans to clients. Mail is more efficient. Why have another meeting with the client just to deliver the finished product?
Because some clients put the estate plan in the closet in the original box and never opened it. They never read the closing letter I sent to them. They never collected the tax deduction due them or wrote letters of instruction or affection to their agents, executors, and family. They never took their powers of attorney to the bank to be reviewed and approved or faxed a copy to their doctor’s office in the event of a medical emergency. These clients did not use their plans. Planning documents are meant to be used. The purpose of the delivery meeting is to make sure the client knows how to use their documents after they receive them including who should have copies and where to store them.
Step four: IMPLEMENTATION & funding & the Continuing Care Program
If you have paid for an estate plan and you are not using it, then it is not working for you and you might as well have put all that money for planning on lottery tickets because it probably won’t work when you need it to work.
We want your plans to work for you. That means we want you to open the box after you receive it. There is work to be done after the documents have been signed and bound. This is the implementation or funding part of planning. For Eldercare and Business Succession clients, we begin funding your trust or charging for care by your newly contracted caregiver. For Estate Planning clients, we may also fund trusts, ensure agents have copies of documents they will need to use on your behalf and ensure your agents know where to find your planning documents, instructions, and information.
If you have done your homework and The Continuing Care Program is a great way to stay informed regarding changes in retirement tips and strategies, tax law, banking policy, VA and Medicaid policies and benefits but most importantly, changes in planning techniques using current law and changes in law or policy in your own state as well as in other states.
Your estate plan is only going to work if it is up to date and relevant and fully implemented. Your family and your life change over time just as the fit of our clothes changes over time. Make your estate plan flexible and dynamic – able to change when your life or the laws and policies affecting you change by joining our continuing care program.
No cost annual letter, annual reviews and assessments, discounted fees and online access to documents transforms your single size estate plan to with stretch. Stay protected.
HOW WE CHARGE FOR SERVICES:
There are three kinds of practices for planning in the areas of estate planning and eldercare or elder law. The first is an hourly practice where you pay hourly for your services, the second is a flat fee type of practice where you pay a flat fee for each type of planning which usually includes companion documents and forms you need for your planning solution. The third is a life care practice where you pay a larger fee up front in return for any and all legal assistance you will need for the remainder of your life.
I have a blended practice. I charge hourly for some types of work such as filing a petition to probate a will or a guardianship petition and litigating trust or will disputes, Medicaid fair hearings or representing clients in relation to criminal charges resulting from an investigation by adult protective services.
For planning services, I charge on a flat fee basis. Clients love to pay one price for a service knowing the cost up front with no hidden surprise charges. I prefer not to nickel and dime clients for each and every phone call or email. The flat fee system eliminates the worry about a large surprise bill from your attorney. You do not have to worry about being charged a different fee based on how much money you have. Rather, the pricing is fixed and changes only based on your plan’s complexity.
We encourage each client to maintain their plans as their families grow and as their needs change. You can do this two ways. You can simply meet with your estate planning attorney every 2-5 years or you can maintain your plan by having your plan reviewed annually and staying up to date on changes in the law and in the markets with our continuing care program. Either way, your estate planning consultation is tax deductible.