Our Estate Planning Process and FREE "Estate Planning Basics" AudiobookJul 11, 2022
The keystone to our law office's estate planning process is my book Estate Planning Basics, provided as required reading for every Estate Strategy Session with clients wishing to discuss their estate planning goals. That in combination with filling out a basic questionnaire means our clients don't waste our valuable time together with me transcribing names, addresses, and dates of birth, and they already know the difference between a Will and a Trust as well as what documents round out a good plan without me having to explain it to them at $400 an hour.
The reason this book is so critical is that it provides all of the basic background information needed on estate planning that most people don't know until they start working with a lawyer or do their own reading and research. Unfortunately, there is so much contradictory information out there regarding the avoidance of probate along with myths, duct tape remedies, and outright falsehoods from attorneys who make a fortunate on handling probate work after someone dies. Years ago, educating prospective clients about the probate process, how to avoid it with a revocable living trusts, and other planning concepts had become such an extremely frustrating process for me and an expensive one for the potential clients who paid hundreds of dollars an hour for what they originally thought was going to be an easy "in-and-out" planning process that I had to change things. (Again, the probate industry wants people to think it is as simple as doing a Last Will and Testament, and the estate administration attorneys end up making the big money after the client passes on.) And in many of these meetings we often used to never get to actually discussing their planning goals.
That's why I originally wrote the 70-page, plain English book which became Estate Planning Basics, and I made it required reading before all first estate appointments. Now, when my clients come into the office for their Estate Strategy Session, they understand all of these basic concepts ahead of time, they have provided the basic information about their family and financial situation, and they come to the conference room table knowing whether they want a Will- or a Trust-based plan. That frustration of not understanding had been washed away before they ever entered the office.
Recently, an insurance professional tried to send us one of their clients but was insisting on bypassing the whole process because his client didn't want to read a book or fill out a questionnaire, and he wanted a next-day appointment to just sit down with me and start the process cold. I know that this "old" process of just meeting and talking meant that only one in four would actually work with us, and of those only half would use a revocable living trust as the base of their plan... and there was a near 100% chance they would have been extremely frustrated even if they did because they didn't understand enough about the basics. Now with the current process, about 90% of the people who meet with us engage us, 85% of those want a revocable living trust as the key to their plan, and there is a lot less frustration.
While we make exceptions to the process when someone is literally dying with weeks or days to live, this wasn't the case for this particular referral. They and their insurance agent just didn't want to follow the process, which meant he wanted to push his client through the frustrating, time-intensive, and expensive dollar-per-hour process that ultimately ends up with about 75% of these first appointments going to a probate attorney who talks them into Wills, and therefore probate, after they die. (In fact, they told my staff "the process sucks" just because it wasn't the process they wanted it to be.) We're not going to waste everyone's time by following this old process just because one professional thinks the effective process "sucks."
Not everyone wants to work with us in our process, but at least they'll understand the basics of estate planning when they first meet with me so we can jump immediately (and cost-effectively) to discussing their planning goals. The feedback from my clients has been universally positive... if they actually read the book and send in the completed questionnaire ahead of their first meeting.
While we are currently working on an online revocable living trust education and planning process throgh my firm for North Carolina, this incident reminded me that years ago I had recorded an audio version of Estate Planning Basics that I didn't release because I didn't believe the audio quality was good enough. So, for a limited time only, this audio version of the book will be available free as part of this post until the upgraded version is available through the online planning process, hopefully within a month or so.
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