A typical estate planning engagement begins with a telephone call establishing communication and trust. If a potential client wants to move forward, an engagement letter is mailed within 24 hours, confirming an appointment date, time and other aspects of your interest. With the appointment letter, will be several forms to fill out and bring to the appointment. If planning will be done for two clients, such as a husband and wife, partners, or a parent and child, the letter will contain the appropriate conflict and confidentiality disclosures required by local ethical rules.

Generally, the initial estate planning meeting will occur within two weeks from your initial call. Detailed financial information that might take some time for you to gather will likely be requested as part of the engagement letter. Having the correct document and information in advance helps this first meeting run smoothly and as efficiently as possible.

The forms requested for you to bring to the first meeting are very specific. However, if you do not have all the information or if you have questions about what is requested, do not be concerned. For example, you might not know how to answer a question calling for a preferred guardian for your minor child because you are undecided or have considered designating more than one guardian. While it is important for you to consider your best options in advance, we can work together to make the best decision for you and your children. The questionnaire will ask for the following information for family members or beneficiary(ies):

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security Numbers

For formal legal documents, please provide complete and formal names, e.g. "Christopher M. Guest" or "Christopher Michael Guest," instead of "Chris Guest." If you own various assets under different names, i.e., a mutual fund owned under your maiden name, it is important to list them as such. To avoid any confusion over whether or not an asset is controlled by you, all documents need to clearly identify you or we can work together to identify and address any necessary corrections.

The forms will also ask for specific financial information. The questionnaire will be grouped into assets classes/types for you to answer. You can round the values to the nearest $1000 for convenience.

Another part of the questionnaire will be for you to designate who should serve as your fiduciaries if you are incapacitated and who will assure that your assets pass to the appropriate persons at your death. I can provide guidance for this daunting task. Though the questionnaire may seem a little long, but the information you provide will ensures that your estate plan is customized to your needs and completed efficiently.

The first appointment usually takes about one hour, but the time can vary depending on how well you are prepared and the complexity of your situation. At the conclusion of the first appointment, Iwill have sufficient information to prepare a rough draft of the documents or instruments that will be used to manage your estate. The rough draft will be mailed to you within two weeks. A letter will be incorporated with the draft documents instructing you to read the documents carefully and to provide any questions you have on the documents. I can discuss your questions about the documents by telephone, or, if you prefer, we can meet in person. If revisions are necessary, a second draft will be mailed to you within seven business days. Typically, if your situation is intricate and the documents are complicated, I prefer to review them with you in person. If we review the documents over the phone, I will then schedule a time for you to sign your documents. Most clients are able to complete their estate planning within 6-7 weeks of our first contact.

Each estate plan will be specifically tailored to your needs, but generally will include a Will, a financial power of attorney and a medical directive. If circumstances warrant, the plan may also include a Trust. Usually our draft versions of your Will and Trust contain end notes describing in brief terms the purpose or effect of each article in the document. I will generally use worksheets to identify your assets, provide a diagram showing how your assets will pass at the time of your death, and calculate the estimated costs of administering your estate, the federal and local estate taxes and the amounts passing to each beneficiary.

At the time you sign your documents, I give you the originals, a set of copies, designation of beneficiary language for your life insurance and retirement accounts, a memorandum describing how you can make gifts of tangible property without the formalities and costs of a formal amendment to your Will, and an instruction letter. The letter explains where you should keep the originals and the copies of your documents, how to complete the life insurance and retirement account beneficiary designations, how to make asset transfers, how often to review your planning and other information that may be helpful to you. If your plan includes a revocable Trust, you will additionally be given a memorandum explaining how to transfer your assets into the Trust.

The Law Office of Christopher Guest, PLLC
1001 G Street, NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20001
202.349.3969 (DC)
703.237.3161 (VA)
703.574.5654 (Fax)


Copyright © 2016 Law Office of Christopher Guest PLLC

Contact Chris Guest at guestlaw@gmail.com

Typical clients needing estate planning:

  • An older couple looking to protect their assets from potential tax risks
  • A young couple primarily focused on providing for their minor children
  • A small business owner attempting to ensure the succession of the business
  • An adult child organizing the affiars of a recently deceased parent
  • A recently widowed spouse trying to administer an estate in probate
  • A parent establishing a trust to administer to their special needs child