“Thought for the Day” #875 – by Stephen R. Elville, J.D., LL.M.

December 30, 2016

Finishing up this week’s top planning New Year’s resolutions for 2017 count down, and having taken the first three of four important steps – (1) determine whether you have estate planning documents and where they are located; (2) examine any existing documents and determine exactly what the documents are – what documents you actually have (make a list – will, trust, power of attorney, advance medical directive, or other documents), and when was the last time they were reviewed/updated; and (3) determine the dates of the documents and whether they have been updated in the past two years. If the existing documents have not been updated in the past two years, or if you find you have only a partial set of documents or no documents at all, in any of those events contact your estate planning attorney during the first week of January to schedule a review meeting, noting that if you do not have an estate planning attorney, ask your financial advisor, CPA, banking professional, or trusted friend for a recommendation. Now let’s consider the concluding step of this week’s resolution process, New Year’s planning resolution number four: expect the best and form a planning advisory team. When you meet with your prospective estate planning attorney, be proactive and ask probing questions about whether the attorney (the law firm) has a process designed to take care of you and your family both during the planning process and in the years that follow, and whether they will work collaboratively with your existing advisors (CPA and financial advisor); or, if you do not have such a planning advisory team in place, whether the attorney will assist you in forming a client-centric, professional planning advisory team. If during this process you get any indication whatsoever that the attorney (the law firm) does not engage in this type of client-focused collaborative process, then you should continue your interview process elsewhere until you receive the positive responses to your questions that are indicative of real client care. Expecting the best, there should be no compromising along these lines. By resolving to take these four end of the year planning steps, you will be identifying and addressing any current gaps or deficiencies in your planning and setting the stage for the kind of continuous updating and follow-up that is necessary for planning that works as intended. Happy New Year!