Most people recognize the importance of having a well thought out and comprehensive estate plan in place. To ensure that your estate plan qualifies, you hopefully also recognize the need to work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney. When you retain the services of an attorney, it is very easy to think in terms of how the attorney can help you. After all, you are paying the attorney for his/her services, right? While this is certainly true, it is ultimately in your best interest as well to ask yourself what you can do to help your estate planning lawyers.
The Attorney-Client Relationship
No matter type of legal issue or problem you have, when you retain the services of an attorney to assist you, the attorney-client relationship that develops should be a collaborative one. The job of an attorney is to provide guidance, defend a client’s rights, develop strategies to prevail in the case, and advocate for the client during negotiations or trial. Without regard to the type of legal issue, however, an attorney’s job does not entail making decisions for the client. In fact, many of the most important decisions that need to be made must be made by the client, after consulting with the attorney.
It is equally important to understand that an attorney’s ability to prevail in whatever legal issue/problem is involved is often directly related to how forthcoming and helpful a client is. A tax law attorney cannot give a client accurate advice about the tax consequences of a transaction if the client leaves out important information about the details of that transaction. A criminal defense attorney cannot develop a winning defense if the client fails to divulge critical information that could cause that strategy to fail. The same applies to estate planning. As a client, your assistance, or lack thereof, can have a direct impact on how successful your estate plan turns out to be.
Ways to Help Your Estate Planning Lawyers
You finally stopped procrastinating and hired an estate planning attorney to help you get started on your estate plan. While retaining an estate planning attorney is certainly an excellent first step, there are a number of other ways you can help to ensure that you have a well thought out and comprehensive estate plan in place at all times, such as:
- Come prepared to your first meeting — the first meeting with an estate planning attorney can be a bit intimidating. Most people are not sure what to expect. To make your initial consultation as productive as possible, come prepared, meaning:
- Prepare a list of all your assets and liabilities and include as much detail about each item on the list as possible, such as account numbers, values, manner titled etc.
- Create a list of beneficiaries with current contact information
- Think about fiduciary roles in your estate plan prior to your meeting
- List your estate planning goals, such as incapacity planning, probate avoidance, or business succession planning
- Create a list of questions you have for your attorney so you don’t forget any important ones
- Keep your attorney updated – sometimes, a life event calls for an immediate modification of your estate plan. For example, if you decide to get divorced, your estate planning attorney needs to know that because you will undoubtedly want to make changes to the beneficiary designations in your plan as well as appoint new fiduciary roles if your spouse is currently fulfilling those roles.
- Consider the estate planning consequences before acting – your estate planning attorneys will be in a much better position to react to changes in your plan if you discuss those changes with them before making them when possible.
- Schedule routine reviews – you should also plan routine reviews of your estate plan. An out of date estate plan is often worse than not having a plan at all. While you are still in your working years, a routine review every three to five years is appropriate.
By viewing your relationship with your estate planning lawyers as a partnership, you will be in an even better position to create an estate plan that addresses all of your needs and goals both now and in the future
Contact New York Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.