When working with a traditional lawyer, you may meet the lawyer online or in their office for a free initial consultation. During this consultation, the lawyer may fill out a worksheet, ask you some questions, and then tell you which documents you need to have prepared. They'll then quote you a fee (or range of fees, if they are charging hourly) to create those documents for you.
If you agree to hire the lawyer to prepare these documents for you, he or she will ask you to make decisions about some of the most important matters of your life. It's likely that you may not get the proper information and education to ensure you feel 100% confident making those decisions. You will do the best you can, regardless, figuring “lawyer knows best.”
Then, you will write a check, leave the office, and hope for the best.
Creating legal documents yourself online would likely feel similar.
You won’t really know for sure whether you are doing the right thing, creating the right documents, making sure everything is handled correctly.
Either way, you will end up with a thick stack of legal documents to review, hoping upon all hope that they actually will accomplish what you desire, but really having no way to know for sure.
You’ll sign the documents you don’t completely understand, stick them in a binder (or your lawyer will put them in a binder for you), you’ll put that binder on your bookshelf, mark “estate planning” DONE on your task list, and likely not think about it again.
Unfortunately, what you end up with is not a plan that is guaranteed to work when your family needs it. Instead you get false security, thinking you have taken care of everything, when often you actually have not.
That could be because you chose the wrong documents. Or perhaps things changed in your life and your documents didn’t stay up to date.
Or maybe your assets didn’t get retitled and are not owned in the right way to keep your family out of Court, if that was important to you. (Read the story of what happened after my father in law spent $3,000 on a plan with a lawyer and how we ended up in Court and conflict anyway.)
(Read the best-selling book on legal planning for parents, so you know 100% what you need to do to ensure your kids are taken care of in the way you want, by the people you want, no matter what.)
Worst of all, maybe your family can’t find all of your assets at the time of your incapacity or death, and what you’ve worked so hard for is inadvertently lost to the Department of Unclaimed Property in your State. In NY alone, as of this writing, there are $14.5 billion dollars sitting there -- mostly because far too many people have become incapacitated or died and their families never knew how to find their assets.
And, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), if your plan does fail, you may never find out. By the time the people who will have to rely on these documents, the people you love most in the world, need them, you will be gone.
Because we never want to see your family left with a big mess in the event of your incapacity or death, our planning process begins with the end in mind, to get you more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and ensure you are making informed, empowered, educated choices for yourself and the people you love.
We do this by beginning with a Family Wealth Planning Session®.
Whether you need comprehensive planning or not, this Session (and the pre-work) alone will leave you feeling empowered and confident about the care of your assets and loved ones.
During your Family Wealth Planning Session™, your Personal Family Lawyer® will provide some background and history about how he or she came to practice as a Personal Family Lawyer® and share how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® is different than working with a traditional lawyer.
For example, there are no hourly fees when working with a Personal Family Lawyer®. Imagine that, a lawyer who isn't billing you every time you call the office!?! In fact, your Personal Family Lawyer® will encourage communication to ensure your plan works when your family needs it. And that you are making wise legal and financial choices throughout all of life’s stages.
There's other things too, but you'll have to wait to hear what they are from your Personal Family Lawyer®. All Personal Family Lawyer® offices operate slightly differently, but for the most part you can expect a lawyer who is affordable and accessible. You'll get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you never have to make another financial or legal decision without guidance again. You'll get a trusted advisor who will be there for your family when you can't be.
And, you can expect responsive, caring counsel. Regular reviews of your estate planning documents. A whole team approach to customer service, unlike anything you've ever experienced with a lawyer before, and all around good feeling. The rest you really have to hear about during your Planning Session™.
Then, you will share your background and history so your Personal Family Lawyer® can get a good understanding of where you are now and what's most important to you.
If you decide the current state of affairs is unacceptable -- either your existing plan or the State’s plan for you, or if you don’t currently have a plan -- your Personal Family Lawyer® will discuss your planning options with you. They'll help you to make the best decisions about how to get your affairs in order and keep them that way throughout your lifetime for the maximum convenience and care of the people you love.
If you already have an estate plan in place, your Family Wealth Planning Session™ includes a comprehensive review of your existing estate plan so you know exactly what it does, and whether it will work when your family needs it.
You can book a Family Wealth Planning Session® without an existing plan here. The fee is $750, and will be applied toward your comprehensive planning. If we cannot locate a Personal Family Lawyer® to meet with you, we’ll refund your fee. If you’d like to have your Family Wealth Planning Session™ for free, contact a Personal Family Lawyer® in your area directly, and ask how you can schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session® at no charge.
Or, book a Family Wealth Planning Session™ with an existing plan here. The fee is $950, and will be applied toward your comprehensive planning. If we cannot locate a Personal Family Lawyer® to meet with you you, we’ll refund your fee. If you’d like to have your Family Wealth Planning Session™ with existing estate plan reviewed for free, contact a Personal Family Lawyer® in your area directly, and ask how you can schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session™ at no charge.
You need a Family Wealth Planning Session® if you own any assets, including real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, or life insurance that would need to be distributed after your death.
You need a Family Wealth Planning Session® if you are at all concerned with ensuring you make empowered, informed, educated decisions that will serve you and your loved ones, rather than just hoping things will be handled properly and your assets will be located and your loved ones cared for, when you cannot be there.
You need a Family Wealth Planning Session® if you have minor kids at home, parents you care for (or about), or spouses, partners or other loved ones you care about.
If all you own is a car, some furniture, and clothing and you do not have anyone dependent on you, you may not need a Family Wealth Planning Session®. In that case, you can take care of your planning by setting up a Living Will (aka Advance Health Care Directive) using the Five Wishes program and a Financial Durable Power of Attorney, naming someone to access your accounts, if you cannot.
If you also have minor children who depend on you for their care, you will need a Kids Protection Plan to provide for their care if you can't care for them. You can create free legal documents naming legal guardians for your children at http://www.KidsProtectionPlan.com.
Endorsed Members When you are seeking to work with a Personal Family Lawyer please note that we have lawyers listed on the site who are in training to transition their practice in the way that we teach and we also have lawyers who are officially endorsed by New Law Business Model and Family Wealth Planning Institute, in collaboration, as fully trained in the Personal Family Lawyer methodologies .
Endorsement means that those lawyers have successfully transitioned their practice to the Personal Family Lawyer way, and passed tests established by New Law Business Model and Family Wealth Planning Institute to ensure their practice meets the Personal Family Lawyer standards of care.
Chris Crago is a probate, estate planning, and corporate attorney with an LL.M in Taxation from the University of Washington. He has significant experience providing tax, transaction, consulting and planning services for large Fortune 500 corporations, large estates, financial institutions, closely-held businesses, domestic partnerships and individuals. His practice includes estate planning, trust and estate litigation, tax controversy audit defense and litigation, business succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, and restructuring of domestic and international business operations and ownership. Mr. Crago is admitted to practice in Washington and the United States Tax Court.Read More