Prospective clients usually begin with a free initial phone, zoom, or in-person consultation during which we discuss your situation and your goals. Then we can set up a strategy session, after which I can usually quote a fixed price for the recommended package.
All you need to do is call me so we can discuss some basics - marital status, number, and age of kids, rough balance sheet, likely executors/guardians/trustees. It's helpful, but not necessary to know if you have designate beneficiaries on any accounts. Anything jointly owned?
After our initial consultation, I will send you a proposal, in which I'll quote the price for work we've discussed. I typically ask that you pay upon engagement as a refundable retainer. For larger projects, I am happy to consider staged payments or other arrangements. We accept cash, checks, and most electronic payments.
Our relationship doesn't end after you get your binder of signed documents. You’re always welcome to call me with any questions you have about our work or about other legal issues. If I can't give a short answer, we'll schedule a time to talk further or I'll make a referral recommendation. I will also email to check in with you at least annually.
A lawyer's answer: it depends! Kidding aside, a typical set of documents for a couple first approaching estate planning includes a will, a health-care proxy, a living will, and a durable power of attorney. More sophisticated planning can include irrevocable life insurance trusts, revocable lifetime trusts, personal residence trusts, and vehicles for structured charitable giving.
Absolutely – anyone who cares about how their assets are handled or who wants to take care of their family after they die needs a will. If you die without a will, the state's provisions for intestacy will probably not match up with the plan you would choose.
Technically, yes you can. However, if you're serious about protecting your family and finances, I'd advise you to at least consult with an attorney who specializes in this area.
I work with a range of families, individuals and small business owners with various estate planning needs. Most of my clients come to me for a will and/or a life insurance trust; others do more extensive planning involving multiple life insurance trusts, gifting trusts, and more complex tax-planning structures.
Most of my clients require my expertise in estate planning and tax law for one reason or another. Some recent clients include:
- A couple with no obvious good choices for guardians for their children
- A couple with one partner who was a non-US citizen
- Family with a special needs child
- An unmarried couple with children
- Second marriage in which each partner had children from prior marriages
In addition to setting forth your wishes about who should receive your assets, a well-drafted will answers several other crucial questions about your estate, including:
- Who do you want to be the Executor – that is, the person responsible for identifying and collecting the assets of your estate, paying your just debts and expenses, dealing with your surviving family and other relatives, dealing with the probate court, and filing appropriate tax returns?
- Who you want to be your minor children’s Guardian? Or back-up Guardian, if your guardian is unable or willing to care for your minor children?
- Who will be the Trustees of your assets, if they are held in trust for your minor children, or if you create trusts for tax-planning purposes?
- A well-drafted will can significantly improve your estate’s tax position, often substantially reducing the imposition of tax not only on your estate, but also on the estate of your surviving spouse.
A well-drafted irrevocable trust can hold life insurance policies that will NOT be subject to estate taxes on death and can be an exceptionally powerful structure for reducing the impact of estate taxes. Additionally, insurance trusts can provide very robust protection from plaintiffs, creditors, and divorce.
A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an “agent” or “attorney in fact” (usually your spouse or a close friend or relative). The Power of Attorney grants your agent broad powers to manage your affairs, including making legal and financial decisions, but not including health care decisions – the Health-Care Proxy grants that authority.
You would use this document to cover the case in which you become incapacitated and you want someone to be able to manage your affairs for you; a “Durable” Power of Attorney is so called because the it remains in effect even after you become incapacitated. It can be revoked at any time.
A Living Willexpresses your desires with regard to health care treatment if you become incapacitated and/or physically incapable of expressing those desires. It can include, but need not be limited to, instructions concerning the termination of life support. New York law requires clear and convincing evidence of what the patient would want, which is why it makes sense to use a standard form, properly executed. A Health-Care Proxy can be included as part of the Living Will document.
A Health-care Proxy designates someone you trust – your spouse, another family member, or a close friend – to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself.
Your agent can also decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes, and your agent’s decisions will be binding on hospitals, doctors and other health care providers as if they were your own. You may allow your agent to make all health care decisions or only certain ones, and you may provide instructions that he or she has to follow (for instance, in a living will).