A common question often asked by people who want to hire an estate planning lawyer is, “How do I prepare for the first meeting?” Is the meeting in person? Is it virtual? Is it by phone? If it’s by phone, does the lawyer call me, or should I call them? What should I bring to the meeting—everything, some things, nothing, just myself? May I bring a friend or a family member if it’s my estate plan? If married, do both spouses need to be at the meeting? If we have kids, do they need to come? Do I even need to attend the meeting, or may I send a proxy? These are just a few questions one might ask in preparation for the first meeting.
Where Does the First Meeting Take Place? Subsequent Meetings?
There was a time when this would not have been an issue, nor a question asked. All meetings were assumed to occur in person and at the lawyer’s office. But while holding meetings on a virtual platform is not new, the coronavirus pandemic took things to a new level. When Covid hit, and we were sheltered in place, everyone went virtual. Now, three years later, many people, including lawyers, have discovered the benefit of continuing to hold meetings virtually.
So, where does the first meeting with your lawyer take place? It depends. How do you find out? Ask your lawyer where the meeting will take place. These days many estate planning lawyers still prefer to meet on Zoom. Others are happy to meet in person. Still, others hold their meetings virtually except when it’s time for the execution of the documents. The best way to know what your lawyer expects is to ask them.
What Should You Bring to the Meeting?
Not all lawyers are created equal. Therefore, not all lawyers operate their practice in the same way. Therefore, asking the lawyer what they want to see during the first meeting is always best. If the first meeting is an initial consult to determine if you and the lawyer are a good fit, perhaps there is no need to bring anything. Some lawyers might want to see any existing documents. The best way to find out is to ask.
Who Should Attend the Meeting?
It depends. If you are a married couple and want jointly created documents, then both of you will likely want to attend the meeting. Be aware that you will probably need to sign a waiver of privilege. This means you and your spouse will have no attorney/client privilege. So if you have a secret stash, hidden assets, or a Pied-à-Terre, you may want to hire separate lawyers.
If you are single and want to bring a friend or family member to the meeting, the attorney/client privilege may still be lost. Because each state has laws, you should discuss this with your attorney before inviting anyone to the meeting.
Rule of thumb, only persons who need to attend the meetings should be there. Ask your attorney when in doubt. That includes you. You must attend the meeting if you hire a lawyer to create your documents. No proxy allowed. Unless you are a minor, you must be present. And even if you are a minor, you and your guardian must be present.
Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker
Don’t miss Francine’s Latest Blogs:
- How to Survive InflationSurviving High Inflation How to Survive Inflation. With inflation at a forty-year high, the rising cost of living is affecting everyone. While you may feel some distress as you watch […]
- Contract MistakesContract Mistakes Contract Mistakes. No Written Agreement.Probably the number one contract mistake people make is not having written agreements with everyone they do business with. I am always amazed by […]
- 31 Days of Estate PlanningEstate Planning Blogs Estate Planning Blogs. Have you ever wished there was one location to find basic information about estate planning? One location where you could get some definitions for […]
- Trust Mill ScamsDo You Really Want to Work? Five years ago, people complained they couldn’t find work. Today, there are so many jobs available, and no one wants to work. Instead, robbers, […]
- Probate Process — Basic StepsProbate Process Probate process basic steps. When someone passes away, their estate is generally required to go through probate unless there was a valid trust in place. It is a […]