At the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd., all of our Estate Plans start out with a Ritchie Legacy Planning Session, or as we abbreviate it, a "RLPS".
After you have contacted our office to schedule a RLPS, we send you an Estate Planning Questionnaire. This questionnaire helps us learn about you, your family, and your assets. We require this questionnaire to be turned in four days prior to your RLPS so we can have a productive and working first meeting.
Step 1: Probate Asset Analysis
During your RLPS, we focus our attention on the Probate Asset Analysis Diagram we prepare for you using the information you provided about your assets in your intake questionnaire.
For Estate Planning purposes, this diagram organizes your assets into the following categories:
Probate: Assets that are only owned by one person and do not have beneficiary designations. These assets do not automatically transfer to someone else when the owner dies.
Non-probate: Assets that automatically transfer to a person's heirs or legatees when they die. These assets are either jointly owned (with right of survivorship) with another person (think of a car, home or bank account that a married couple owns together) or have beneficiary designations.
By organizing assets this way, we are able to see if your Estate will avoid probate (CLICK HERE to learn more about probate).
Below is an example of our Probate Asset Analysis:
Step 2: Learn the Differences Between Trusts and Wills
After going over your Probate Asset analysis, I walk you through the differences between a Trust and a Will. During this step, I have a checklist that I use - this yes/no checklist touches on different situations that might make you consider a Trust over a Will.
Step 3: Steps Needed to Get Your Estate Plan Done/Updated
After outlining the differences between a Trust and a Will, I go over the processes for both plans. Typically, a "simple" Estate Plan, consisting of a Will, Power of Attorney Documents and a TODI if needed (CLICK HERE to learn more about TODIs), can be executed in just two meetings: 1) your RLPS and 2) a Signing Ceremony. Because Trusts are more complex than a Will, they require an extra planning meeting, or what we call, a "Trust Design Meeting". A Trust Estate Plan usually consists of three meetings: 1) RLPS; 2) Trust Design Meeting; and 3) Signing Ceremony.
Step 4: Discuss Your Estate Plan Options
By the time we have reached Step Four, I have explained the Probate Asset Analysis, you understand how your assets are organized, you know the differences between a Will and a Trust and the process for each. We now discuss your Estate Plan options, how each one will fit in with your estate, and the costs of each option.
Step 5: Review Your Estate Planning Questionnaire
After you have decided what type of Estate Plan is best for you, I then go over your Estate Planning Questionnaire. This lets us know who you want named as your Power of Attorneys, Executors, and Guardian of your Children (if applicable). We also discuss any specific bequests or charitable donations you want to include in your documents.
Step 6: Schedule Your Next Meeting
You have now chosen what type of Estate Plan you want, who will be your appointed decision makers, and let us know of any other wishes you want to include in your documents. Now, we schedule your next meeting and our office gets to work on drafting your documents!
This article is a service of Attorney Chad A. Ritchie and the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd.
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