The Planning Process
We start by understanding as much as possible about your needs, goals, and current state of planning. This includes getting to know you, reviewing your relevant financial information and existing strategies, and understanding your priorities. To get started, download our pre-planning fact finder.
Everyone’s planning needs are different. During the discovery phase we will audit your existing legal and business plans, review tax returns and other relevant information, and meet with you to help you understand your options and clarify your goals. We will then work with you to determine “next steps” and enter into an engagement agreement with you.
Because we work on a fixed fee and retainer model, we seek open communication with you. We don’t charge our clients for calls or emails because the more we understand about you and your needs, the more likely we are to develop legal strategies that accomplish your objectives.
We then undertake an extensive review of your existing situation and compare that to the goals you’ve established. We may need to go back and forth with you a few times for clarity or to get additional information.
This is also a great time to bring your CPA and other advisors into the conversation so everyone is on the same page. During this phase of planning we often uncover strategic legal and tax opportunities that your tax advisor should be aware of, and get him or her on board with any changes to your accounting or tax prep. We also often discover more effective ways for you to leverage your existing life insurance or address your retirement holdings.
We don’t do accounting, we don’t sell insurance, and we don’t give financial advice, so we don’t compete with any of your other advisors. But through our strategic legal review and analysis we often find opportunities for you to improve your legal protection and your tax and financial efficiency.
This is where your strategic legal plan gets put into motion. The implementation phase usually includes several legal strategies, often including one or more trusts (potentially in more strategic jurisdictions), one or more limited liability companies, and a lot of complex paperwork to document your strategic legal plan. This part can seem overwhelming for many people, so we walk through your legal plan with you and present it as simply and clearly as possible.
If your plan requires additional tax preparation, appraisals, asset retitling, or other steps, we will review that with you (and with your CPA, if you’d like). We will help you understand the process of maintaining your legal plan, and discuss how to manage your plan going forward to make sure it stays in sync with your goals over time. If you allow us, we will work collaboratively with your tax advisor, insurance advisor, and financial advisor to help them fully understand the components of your strategy and how it impacts your overall plan.
Once your strategic legal plan is in place, we will deliver all original documents to you. We also provide electronic copies for you to keep in case you need to send copies to your other advisors.
Strategic legal planning doesn’t just happen once. Like a good business strategy, your personal legal strategy must be kept current with your needs and flexible to deal with circumstances that change over time. Perhaps most importantly, your legal plan must be reviewed and updated as laws change, as your priorities and needs change, and as the continued evolution of the legal landscape opens new planning opportunities.
The frequency and intensity of periodic plan reviews depends largely on how sophisticated your planning needs are. For some folks a thorough review every two years is fine. For people with complex trust strategies, business holdings, or strategic tax-leveraged plans, semiannual or quarterly plans are necessary. The main objective of a continuing engagement is to give your strategic legal plan the maximum opportunity for success. That doesn’t happen by accident, and your plan doesn’t work on autopilot.
The purpose of our Legacy Programs is to make sure your plan is effective. We partner with you to set criteria for your plan’s success, and then implement a Legacy Program aimed at accomplishing your goals. Depending on your planning needs, we offer various levels of continuing engagement. We will also gladly tailor our relationship to your unique needs. More information on our Evergreen Legacy Plan is available here.