MY PLANNING PROCESS
In order to provide my excellent customized estate plans for my clients, I have developed both a two-step and a three-step planning process that are designed to be both comprehensive and efficient. While I generally provide planning using fixed, flat fees, any deviations from my planning process can create significant time delays and can cost additional attorney and staff time that was not intended to be covered by my flat fees. If this occurs, additional fees may be assessed, as outlined in my Engagement Letter.
My goal is to start and complete the estate planning process with you in three to four weeks from the initial consultation.
Step One: Week 1 – The Initial Consultation Meeting
Prior to any consultation, you will receive confirmation of your meeting date and time, and a few simple worksheets to complete and bring with you to your appointment. My planning process starts with a one to two hour initial consultation meeting. In this meeting, we work together to determines your wishes, desires, needs, and concerns, answer your questions, and outline various estate planning options that are available.
If the joint decision is made at the end of the consultation meeting between you and me to engage me to prepare your estate plan, then an Engagement Letter is signed, and a deposit of one-half of the agreed upon fixed fee based on the initial level of planning desired is paid.
Depending on the level of estate planning selected, you will either be interviewed for your estate planning choices as part of the Initial Consultation, or you will then receive a binder with various additional worksheets for you to complete as your “homework” prior to your next meeting with me, the Plan Design Meeting.
Step Two: Week 2 or Week 3 – The Plan Design Meeting
If a Plan Design is scheduled, you will meet with me and review your homework assignment. More questions will be asked and answered, and I will both clarify your answers and work together with you to complete the design of your estate plan. Any special customization for your particular situation is also covered in this meeting. Unless you have to add additional planning options than those originally contemplated in your Engagement Letter, no additional monies are owed at the end of this meeting.
Step Three: Week 3 or Week 4 – The Signing Meeting
At this meeting, you will come in to sign your estate planning documents. It will be necessary for you to bring a valid, current photo identification card such as a driver’s license, state I.D. card, military ID. card, or passport as proof of your identity. Your documents will be reviewed with you, emphasizing the specific wishes and desires you identified with me in earlier meetings. You will then sign the documents, having them witnessed or notarized as necessary, and then sign my notary journal. You will also be asked to provide a right thumbprint in my notary journal.
The remaining payment of any legal fees is due at the end of the Signing Meeting. All of your legal documents will be scanned and stored on my computer system, and a copy of all signed documents will be provided on a flash drive for easy storage and distribution by you to anyone who needs a copy. You will also receive one or more Word documents on your flash drive that contain blank forms that you can use to maintain many parts of your estate plan in the future without having to come back into my office in the future.
At the end of the appointment, you will receive your original documents in a sturdy, attractive binder, and a flash drive with scanned copies of all signed documents (for easy storage and sharing with those who need copies). The flash drive will also contain various Word documents that can be used to maintain many parts of your estate plan without the need to return to me for updating.
I am as close as your telephone, fax, or e-mail, when it comes to scheduling a free one-hour initial consultation. I am generally available during office hours, and usually can return after-hours calls, faxes and emails by the next business day.
Attorney Robert P. Bergman, Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law, assists families in the San Francisco Bay Area with Estate Planning, Special Needs Planning for children and adults, special planning for retirement plan assets, and trust administration.