So you have decided that you need a Will, a Trust, a Power of Attorney, or other Estate Planning. Maybe you have lost a loved one, a family member, or someone else close to you, and his or her estate needs to go through Probate. Perhaps you are starting a business and want to properly form an LLC, a Corporation, or a partnership. Where do you start? After you decide that you need to meet with an attorney to discuss your legal needs and issues, what should you expect? First of all, every attorney is different and approaches cases, clients, and legal issues differently, so I can only speak to how my office handles consultations.
The first step is to contact an attorney that routinely handles the type of legal issue that you have. If you have a probate issue, it’s a good idea to contact a probate attorney. If you need estate planning, you should contact an estate planning attorney. If your legal issue involves LLCs, corporations, partnerships, or other transactional business type matters, you should contact an attorney familiar with those issues. In many ways we live in a golden age of information and communication, so finding an appropriate attorney and contacting an attorney is easier than ever. My office can be reached via the contact me tab on the website: https://vancehendrixattorney.com/contact-me/; You can e-mail me at: email@example.com; or you can call my office at (903) 944-7800 to schedule an appointment.
When you contact my office you can expect to speak with or communicate with a staff member who will provide you with an appropriate questionnaire (usually via e-mail) and schedule an in-person consultation. It is very helpful to complete the questionnaire prior to your appointment. The purpose of the questionnaire is to provide basic information about your case. In the context of an estate planning matter, the questionnaire is designed to help a potential client think through things like who should serve as their executors, who should be their agents, and how their assets should be distributed upon their death. In the context of a probate, the questionnaire is intended to help the potential client gather the information that will assist the attorney in evaluating what type of probate is necessary. So, it is a good practice to (1) complete the questionnaire to the best of your ability prior to the consultation and (2) bring the completed questionnaire to the consultation.
So, what should you expect from the actual meeting with an attorney. Be prepared to tell the attorney your story, and be ready to explain your objectives and expectations. In the following paragraphs I will limit the discussion to what to expect in the context of a consultation regarding basic estate planning and probate matters, but similar principles apply to all legal matters that you might discuss with an attorney.
Estate Planning. If you have an estate planning case, you should be prepared to discuss your specific objectives and goals with the attorney; be prepared to talk about where you want your assets to go upon your death: will you make specific gifts to individuals? Will you make bequests to charities? Do any of your beneficiaries have special needs that need to be considered? Often times, it will be necessary to provide some background information to the attorney about your family – your spouse, your children, grandchildren, etc. Your relationships with various family members and your unique family dynamics, including personal issues that your family members may have, can and often do, influence the estate plan. Be prepared to discuss your assets in general terms – do you have business interests, mineral interests, investments, life insurance, etc. Before implementing an estate plan it is necessary that you know what you own and your approximate net worth because (1) it is required that a testator (person making a will) know the “nature and extent” of his/her property, and (2) the value of your property determines whether consideration should be given to potential estate tax liability and appropriate planning. Usually, after the consultation, recommendations can be made for an estate plan that will be tailored to your needs and objectives.
Probate. If you have a probate case, you should be prepared to discuss the Decedent’s (a/k/a the deceased) family, assets, and his/her will or trust. The original Will, if available is very helpful and will need to be reviewed by the attorney, so if you have the original, please bring it to the consultation. It is best to know, if possible, in general terms what the Decedent owned at the time of death. Again, a completed questionnaire is very helpful in gathering this information, guiding the consultation, and saving you time. Having an idea of the Decedent’s estimated net worth is also helpful as this information will determine whether there are any estate tax issues that need to be addressed. Typically, after you have discussed the relevant facts, the attorney can make some recommendations regarding which type of probate procedure is appropriate in your case. This will depend largely on whether there was a will, the value and nature of the assets, and where the assets are held and how they are/were owned – are there beneficiaries named, etc. Maybe a small estate affidavit is sufficient; perhaps a Muniment of Title proceeding will accomplish the objectives; sometimes an heirship proceeding may be the appropriate procedure; and oftentimes, an administration of the estate is needed. Making this determination requires the experience and skill of a probate attorney.
In most instances, at the conclusion of the consultation, the attorney can make recommendations to the potential client. At that point, it will be up to the potential client and the attorney to decide whether to work together on the legal matter. Contact my office today to schedule a consultation: (903) 944-7800.
Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this blog post or on the website associated with this blog post is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Vance E. Hendrix, PC, does not represent you or your interests unless and until you have formally engaged Vance E. Hendrix, PC, in writing, and paid the agreed upon retainer. The contents of this blog post and the information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.