How do I Create an Estate Plan?
Creating a bulletproof estate plan is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for your family. But estate planning is not a “one size fits all” proposition. A good estate plan takes into account factors such as whether you are married, whether you have kids, your assets, your family relationships, your health, your finances, and much more.
With all of these complexities of estate planning, you may find yourself asking:
Where do I even start?
Some law firms may merely prepare your estate planning documents. At Postic & Bates, however, our attorneys help walk you through every step in the estate planning process from start to finish. Here is a broad overview of our estate planning process:
You can scroll down to continue reading, or click on one of the links above to skip to a particular section.
STEP ONE: Download our FREE guide
At Postic & Bates, we believe in educating our clients so they can make informed, reasoned estate planning decisions.
That is why we created an Estate Planning Guide with 70+ pages of answers and information about estate planning.
And the best part?
We are giving away our guide FOR FREE.
STEP TWO: Educate yourself
Before you make any big decisions in life, you usually educate yourself on the subject:
You research before you buy a car.
You study before you take a test.
You date before you get married.
Why should estate planning be any different?
Our FREE Estate Planning Guide is a great way to start educating yourself. But as you research for your estate plan, you may come across crazy words or phrases you’ve never seen before. “Legalese” can make it difficult to understand even the simplest estate plan.
But fear not — we have solved the “legalese” problem!
Download our FREE Estate Planning Glossary with definitions for common estate planning terms and explanations of legal jargon and concepts you may come across as you go through the estate planning process.
STEP THREE: Schedule a consultation
The best way to learn about estate planning is to schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
At Postic & Bates, we offer FREE consultations to help you decide if we are the right fit for you. (Some firms charge a fee for this initial appointment, so if you use another firm be sure to ask about their consultation fee before scheduling.)
During this initial appointment, talk about your estate planning goals and ask your attorney any questions you have. You want to make sure you can trust their knowledge and advice. And if it doesn’t feel like a good fit, look to another attorney.
STEP FOUR: Create an action plan
By the time you leave your initial consultation, you and your attorney should have a plan of action for how to move forward. For example, you should leave your consultation with answers to the following questions:
What estate planning documents will your attorney prepare for you?
What additional information do you need to provide to your attorney?
How much will these documents cost?
How long will it take for these documents to be completed?
An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to propose several different options for your estate plan. There may be a BEST solution the attorney recommends, but there are very few scenarios for which there is only ONE solution. So you should weigh the pros and cons of each type of estate planning document, taking into account both the short-term costs (e.g., the price of a living trust) and long-term costs (e.g., probate).
Your estate plan should be thoughtful and informed, so don’t feel like you have to rush into it. Remember, however, that it’s not too late to make your estate plan until it’s too late to make your estate plan. You never know when you are going to need it.
STEP FIVE: Sign a legal representation agreement
Whenever you hire an attorney, ask them to prepare a legal representation agreement or fee agreement. Oklahoma attorneys are strongly encouraged by the Oklahoma Bar Association (though not required by law) to create one anyway.
What is a legal representation agreement?
As its name suggestions, a legal representation agreement spells out the details of your attorney’s representation. It should include information like:
How much you will be paying the attorney
Whether you need to provide a retainer
When/how often you will be billed
The scope of their representation (e.g., exactly what they will be doing for you and what is covered by the fee)
Representation agreements also usually explain other rights and responsibilities of you and the attorney, such as whether an dispute over the agreement must be submitted to arbitration and other common contractual provisions.
Some people feel hesitant about signing legal documents like this, especially when the attorney is the one who prepared it. They may think: Is my attorney trying to take advantage of me? Am I giving up my rights by signing a legal representation agreement? Should I be worried that my attorney wants me to sign this?
These questions are certainly important, but it is equally important for both you and your attorney to have clear expectations at the beginning of an attorney-client relationship. Doing so can avoid a lot of trouble and frustration later on.
STEP SIX: Fill out client information form
For us to prepare your estate planning documents, you will need to fill out our estate planning client information form.
We actually recommend that you fill out this form before your initial consultation. That way you can bring the completed form with you to your appointment, and we will have all the information we need to get started on your documents right away.
Other attorneys use different information forms, so be sure to ask your attorney what information they need from you before they can complete your estate planning documents.
STEP SEVEN: Review document drafts
At Postic & Bates, we generally need three things before we can begin working on your estate planning documents:
A signed legal representation agreement
A completed client information form
Any requested retainer
Once we have this information, we will begin drafting your estate planning documents. The length of time it takes to prepare your drafts depends on the complexity of your plan and whether we need you to provide us with any additional information.
When you receive your documents (usually 7-10 business days), we recommend you review them word for word. We include explanations of your estate planning documents along with your drafts, but you are welcome to contact us with any questions, concerns, or changes. We will edit and/or explain the documents until you are satisfied with them.
STEP EIGHT: Sign documents and organize your affairs
Once you are satisfied with the drafts of your estate plan, call us to set up an appointment where you will sign your documents. The signing ceremony generally takes about one hour.
After the signing ceremony, you are done with the formal estate planning process! However, there is also an informal side to estate planning that involves organizing your affairs after executing your official estate planning documents. This includes:
Funding your trust – What makes a trust effective as a probate-avoidance tool is transferring assets to your trust. This process of re-titling assets into the name of the trust is known as “funding” the trust.
Writing a “letter of instruction” – This letter guides your representatives through administering your estate. It should include information such as where you keep your assets, how to access your accounts, names and phone numbers of advisors (financial, medical, spiritual), names and phone numbers of relatives, funeral plans, etc.
Inventorying your assets – Do you have a safe deposit box? Do you have pre-paid funeral arrangements? Where are your insurance policies? What retirement benefits, death benefits, or other payments or annuities are supposed to be paid out to your estate after your death?
Creating a digital estate plan – What happens to your digital assets after your death? What happens to your memories on Facebook, your photos on Flickr, your family videos on YouTube, and all your other online accounts? A digital estate plan helps your representative access and dispose of those accounts according to your wishes.
Listing services to cancel – What memberships, services, recurring bills, or other expenses need to be stopped after your death? Keep a list of pest services, lawn services, newspaper, cable/Internet, telephone, or other regular expenses that your representatives should cancel after you die.
Holding a “fire drill” – Even if you have an estate plan, do your loved ones or other representatives know where it is and what it says? We recommend that you pretend you have died, and then walk your family through the process of what they must do to set your affairs in order.
What else do I need to know?
Sometimes all this information can be overwhelming. However, clients regularly tell us “That wasn’t so bad!” or “That was painless!” Just remember that you are never alone in this estate planning process: we will be by your side every step of the way.
If you have any additional questions or concerns about estate planning, feel free to contact the experienced Oklahoma City estate planning attorneys at Postic & Bates for a free, no-obligation consultation appointment by clicking the button below: