In last month’s article, I wrote about why everyone should have a Will. I didn’t want to bore you with a bunch of technical legal information, but I tried to impress upon you how important it is by sharing stories of how badly things can go wrong when you don’t have a plan in place. If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at last month’s Hawaii Herald Publication or go online to okuralaw.com/blog to read it.

This is the season of love, giving, and to be grateful, so without rehashing all of the possible horrors of not having an estate plan in place, let’s take a look at the positive aspects of having a plan in place. And for those of us who have never done any estate planning before, I’ll walk you through what you can expect on your first visit to a lawyer to draw up a will or a trust.

What are the benefits of having a plan in place?  An estate plan is truly a selfless act of giving.  When you pass away or are no longer mentally competent, it is not you who will have to deal with sorting out the mess you left behind. You will have no cares left in the world. Actually, it will be up to your family members and loved ones to figure out what your assets and debts are, how to get access to your money, and how to navigate the court system to get it all squared away. This process can go much more smoothly if you have a good estate plan in place before you become incompetent or pass away.  If you have minor or disabled children, then advance planning is all the more important! Who will take care of your children when you’re gone?  Will the right person be able to manage finances for them?  You can save your family from a lot of stress, financial burden, and extra legwork if you have the right plan done ahead of time.

What can I expect when I see a lawyer for the first time to do my estate plan?  First time clients will often walk into our offices a little nervous, not knowing what to expect.  We do our best to help everyone feel at ease—at least as much as anyone can when contemplating their future death.

  • Before your meeting, your lawyer will likely request that you fill out a questionnaire form summarizing your personal, family, and asset information, and asking you to think about some of the details that you’ll need to decide on for your plan.
  • Once you’re in the office and have been introduced to your lawyer, she (or he) will explain what goals we try to accomplish in estate planning and how it applies to your situation.
  • She will give you options that would be appropriate for you and a firm flat rate cost quote of what our office will charge to prepare the recommended plan including all documents. You’re free to sign up right then and there, or to go home and think about it with no pressure either way.
  • After you’ve hired the law firm to represent you in preparing your estate plan, your lawyer will spend a few minutes discussing the details of how to customize your documents for your situation. Then she will go to work preparing and proofreading the documents you need to implement the plan that you decided on.
  • Finally, when everything is prepared and ready to be signed a couple of weeks later, you will come back to the law office for a follow up appointment to sign your documents in front of the notary. Any other follow up steps you need to do will be explained to you at that time and at our office, we don’t bill hourly for follow up questions you might have after your documents are prepared—it’s all included in your flat rate price, so you don’t have to be afraid to call.

It really is as simple as that—5 steps. And you’re on your way to providing peace of mind for yourself and your family. Our law firm is offering a free initial consultation this Holiday season to assess your needs and determine how we can best help you. If you haven’t done an estate plan or haven’t updated yours in many years, call today to schedule an appointment for early next year. Or better yet, if you have children or nieces and nephews over the age of 18, why not give them a simple estate plan as a holiday gift! That’s one that they’ll remember for years to come.