Everyone knows that you can go online and purchase certain Estate Planning forms and other legal documents. They are inexpensive and may appear to address your goals but are they the right documents for you? Do they really include the necessary protection(s) you’re looking for and need especially if unforeseen circumstances/events take place in your life after you sign these documents?
Here’s Why Working with Fredrick P. Niemann Esq. and Hanlon Niemann & Wright May Be the Better Approach
The advantage of working with me is not only my legal expertise but my real-life experience. I have wisdom, wisdom gained from decades of practicing law and meeting with thousands of families. Over the course of many years, I have listened to the turmoil, anguish, and mistakes of individuals who believed that they could do their own legal work or failed to have important legal papers prepared. Many failed to consult with an attorney before problems began or tried to self-help the situation and wound up costing themselves substantially more $$$), emotional conflict, health problems, etc. The value of an experienced Estate Planning attorney knowledgeable in the area of Wills, Trusts, Estates, and Powers of Attorney is that we are “counselors at law”, professionals capable of assisting you with important choices and explaining your many options. My life experience comes in part from having children and a family of my own. I have four children. I have been through their early childhood, adolescence and into their emerging adult lives. I have sat with hundreds of couples who are in second and later marriages, oftentimes with children of prior marriages which I call blended families. I have counseled LBGT couples and business owners who are looking to provide for the future and their succession planning. There are so many decisions that must be made and thoroughly contemplated before “filling in the form of a prepackaged legal document”, that one size truly does not fit all, and you may experience an outcome you never contemplated or intended.
Here are some brief examples of what I mean. If you’re contemplating a trust, what should you consider when selecting a Trustee. First off, is a trust the right document for you? Should there be more than one Trustee, for example, Co-Trustees, or independent Trustees? Under what circumstances should distributions (if any) of income or principal be made from the Trust to beneficiaries? At what age should a trust for minors end? What are the income and death tax consequences of using a trust? Should you have a Will or a Trust? Which is the better choice? What about selecting a Guardian for your children, grandchildren, minors or incapacitated adults? What are the most important criteria in making those decisions? Then there is the choice of selecting a fiduciary. Should you or should you not use a single Executor or Power of Attorney or should Co-Executors and Co-Powers of Attorney be selected? Does it make more sense to pay death tax now or in the future rather than Federal and N.J. income tax for assets that are gifted or transferred to children and others (hint; there can be a major difference in the tax consequence ($$$) and your choice may cost you or your survivors substantially more tax in the future). Is a life estate or a gift of your house a good decision? These are just a few examples.
Here are some more things to think about.
Does it make sense to start gifting now in advance of chronic illness and advancing age. How can you protect yourself against a legal challenge to your Last Will or Trust particularly if family members do not get along and/or siblings have conflicts, or from those who are disappointed with your decisions and wish to contest your estate planning documents? What if a spouse or child/family member is reckless with money and/or is indifferent to the welfare of others? Can you avoid probate altogether simply and inexpensively? Does avoiding probate make sense?
With me you will have the security and comfort of knowing that you have a trusted legal advisor at your side who is available to you whenever the need arises, and our relationship can endure for many years to come.
I often use this analogy with families. If you decide to do the electrical work on your own house and it burns down because you made a mistake, you don’t get your house back because you were “not an experienced electrician”. You have lost your house. It’s not coming back. The same analogy applies with legal work. Maybe you are capable of doing it, in which case, I encourage you to pursue it to save money but often times you will not save money and by meeting with me or an experienced estate planning attorney you will likely save money plus have the confidence that the work product you sign meets your objectives.
People also question the costs of estate planning and what I call the value proposition. If we are going to charge you more than the fees for a “legal zoom” document or “rocket lawyer” form, then we need to justify the value of our fees. That proposition is easily addressed because with me you get all of your documents prepared at a flat fee charge. I will recommend only those documents you need for today and if appropriate for tomorrow and beyond. You will know what the cost is before you authorize me to start. My documents will (most times) include (as part of my flat fee) Durable Healthcare Directive(s) and Living Will, Simple and Complex Power(s) of Attorney, Last Will and Testament and/or a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust. These are documents you probably need now and will definitely need in the future. My documents will also include (as advisable) a trust for minor and/or incapacitated/disabled children, spouses, special needs adults and under appropriate circumstances I’ll address asset protection planning for later life illness, and possible nursing home placement. I will also talk to you about the importance of beneficiary designation(s) and how to avoid probate and reduce New Jersey Death and Inheritance Taxes.
So, you see, our firm really does offer you a value proposition. You get what you need and nothing more at a price that is generally less than other firms, particularly large law firms. But there is also another big difference with us and that has to do with the personal and generally friendly culture of Hanlon Niemann & Wright. Every day we sincerely strive to give our clients the attention they need to address the unique circumstances of life and those they seek to protect. Read about our culture and positive reviews in the many testimonials you see online. These are the actual testimonials of real clients.
Here is Some of the Information I Would Like You to Bring When We Meet
If you have decided that you would like to meet with me, I am thrilled and look forward to our time together. Below is some information to help you prepare for our time together.
a) Personal Information about you
1. Your legal name and contact information;
2. Relatives, names and addresses of children and immediate family members;
3. Special burial and funeral arrangements you want followed;
4. Personal concerns (things private to you) that may have persuaded you that it was time to visit with me.
b) Your Assets and Liabilities
• Individual and jointly owned real estate;
• Real Estate – mortgage amounts, property locations and descriptions, form of legal ownership, estimated fair market value of each parcel of real estate;
• Investments – CDs, bonds, stocks, bank accounts business interests and investments, including brokerage accounts;
• Other financial information – a list of investments, real estate, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and plans; a listing of any companies or businesses owned, trusts owned of which the client is the beneficiary or creator, list of monies owed and debts owed, and if estate planning for a married couple, distinguish between community and separate property.
• Life insurance policies including death benefit and cash surrender value, if any
• Safety deposit box location and contents (you don’t need to disclose cash)
• Debts owed by you to others and debts owed to you
• Your estimated income and expenses
If the above sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. I have an easy to read questionnaire form which will organize your thoughts and tell you precisely what to bring when we meet. I’ll send it to you (email or postal service) well in advance of our scheduled appointment. If you can’t provide the information all at once, it’s not a problem. Chances are what you do bring me will be enough to get started.
So what will we talk about? To start, we’ll talk about you! We’ll start with:
• A candid conversation regarding your health and the extent of impending health concerns. Difficult topics of life expectancy and declining cognitive capacity should (must) be discussed in order to make appropriate recommendations.
a) General information about your income and expenses.
b) General information about your health and your family
c) Previous marriages, divorces, deaths and the identifying information of your spouse(s) and children by those marriages.
d) Special concerns of the client’s family, i.e., disabled family members, family members of whom the client is wary, family members who are prone to credit problems, or those who may have conflicts with the family members.
• A successful estate plan assesses your goals, wishes and intentions and seeks to address them. An unsuccessful one ignores your goals.
• Our intake discussion will be important in determining your wishes. From my experience, the best tool is listening to you and then asking questions. I know you have specific reasons in mind for coming to see me. By listening to you and reviewing the information you bring, I will generally be able to address your estate planning goals and address structure and comments on the various family members’ issues and concerns that you may not even be aware of.
• If your estate plan is more complicated, it is important to me to know how far you want to plan for tax and probate avoidance.
I hope I have been able to offer a compelling reason to meet with me for your Last Will and Testament. I look forward to meeting with you. You can contact me toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your considering of our office.
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney