Planning to Protect Everyone You Love and Everything You Have

Are you wondering, or worrying, what would happen legally to you, your family, and your assets if something unexpected or unfortunate happened to you?

The scary part is that even if you do not have an estate plan, the State of New York has both an incapacity plan as well as a death plan for you. The State, not necessarily your loved ones, will have a large, if not the final, say in what happens to you, your minor children, as well as your assets in the event you are incapacitated or die without an estate plan.

Some of the problems that can occur when you do not have an estate plan are:

  • Children being placed into protective services;
  • A Judge, as opposed to you, deciding who will raise your children (and maybe the Judge picks the last person you’d want but they have no way of knowing that);
  • Losing a large percentage of your assets to the costs of probate and having assets tied up for a long time during the arduous, and public, probate process;
  • Children receiving their inheritance at the age of 18 at which time they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, with the assets; and
  • Exposing your loved ones and children to the public probate process
They’re your family and your assets – shouldn’t you have the final say in what happens to them?

The good news is that by putting in place an estate plan now you regain the upper hand over the State and will have the final say in what happens to your family and assets should you become incapacitated or die.

What do you want to happen to your family upon your death? Who do you, or you and your spouse, want to raise your young children? Who do you want to receive your assets? If the recipient of your assets is a young child at what age do you want them to come into their inheritance? Do you want an 18-year-old millionaire running around or do you want to prevent them from having full control over the assets until they are older and more mature? Who do you want to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity and do you want to be kept alive artificially or be allowed to pass away peacefully should there be no hope for your recovery?

These are, among many others, questions that I take great pride in working through with my clients and I have a streamlined and detailed process, developed over nearly a decade of assisting clients, which ensures that the estate plan we put in place for you is a perfect fit. After all, it's your estate plan that we're putting in place, not mine! Too many lawyers forget this important fact.

The Process at Katzner Law Group

Before you learn how I go about putting a client's estate plan in place I believe it's important that you see what others have to say about working with me. After all, the greatest estate planning process in the world isn't of much use to you if the attorney putting it in place is not both good at what they do and enjoyable to work with.

Click the icons below for a sampling of what some of our clients have to say about us.

I believe that the first step in the estate planning process is a phone call (you can of course initially contact me by email and we'll then schedule a follow-up phone call). This introductory call should last 10-15 minutes and is simply an opportunity for us to begin to get to know each other, for me to explain the process to you, and answer any questions you might have.

At the conclusion of this call I will email you what I refer to as an Estate Planning Worksheet. This is simply an intake form but it’s very important in that it will allow you to detail three very important items for our meeting: 1. Your personal fact pattern (single, married, children, ages, etc.), 2. Your financial fact pattern (finances are of course extremely important when it comes to estate planning), and 3. there’s about 2 pages of what I like to refer to as "value-based questions." The value-based questions, in conjunction with our meeting, really allow me to differentiate the work that I do from many other attorneys. If you spent time reading my reviews you’ll see that I take a lot of pride in treating clients as individuals and tailoring the estate plan I put in place for their goals, their concerns, and their values. While I won’t BS you and say that we’re going to reinvent the world of estate planning just for you, I do know that if an attorney cares about, and I certainly care about my clients, they can treat you as an individual and not act like LegalZoom and just jam a template plan down your throat as if one size truly does fit all.

So, bottom line, you’ll complete the Estate Planning Worksheet and return it to me a few days prior to our appointment so I can be properly prepared for our meeting.

Our Meeting

I describe my client meetings as structured, educational, and transparent. I’ll begin by listening to you. This meeting is educational after all. It’s designed for me to learn about you, your family, your goals, your concerns, your assets, and how each of these fit together to form your estate plan. It’s also designed for me to teach you about estate planning (not in a boring way, but rather in a way that allows you to make a decision as an informed consumer). Listening helps get our meeting off to a great start.

Discussing Guardianship

I will then dive into things in a somewhat unexpected way. I believe that the driving force that gets people to plan is making sure that their loved ones, in particular their young children, are cared for after their death by whom they want in the way they want. I’m a parent myself. My children, in large part in a story I’ll be happy to share with you when we meet, were the driving force in my wife and I putting in place our own estate plan as well as my becoming an estate planning attorney. So, we’ll begin by discussing guardianship. Who do you want to be responsible for the care and custody of your children should something happen to you? We’ll discuss long-term guardianship as well as short-term guardianship, something frequently overlooked. We’ll also discuss who do you want to manage assets left to your children? Do you want the guardian to also be responsible for managing the assets left to your children or do you want to bifurcate the person responsible for the care and custody of your children, the guardian, from the person responsible for managing the assets let to your children, the trustee? There are benefits to bifurcation and it’s something we’ll work through together.

Discussing Wills vs Trusts

After we have worked through guardianship and trusteeship we will dive into “estate planning proper” with the most basic of all estate planning structures, what the overwhelming majority of people think of when they think about estate planning, and that is a Last Will and Testament. We will talk about the benefits of a Will based approach (ease of implementation) as well as some of the downsides (probate being chief among them!).

We will then take half a step forward in terms of complexity and talk about an estate plan centered around a Revocable Living Trust. We will talk about the benefits of a Trust based approach as well as some of the work that’s involved when setting up a Trust that’s not there when setting up a Will. The overwhelming majority of my clients that are parents end up putting in place an estate plan centered around a Revocable Living Trust. After you’re done with this page it makes sense for you to learn more about Revocable Living Trust based planning here.

Discussing Legal Fees

At this point in our meeting I’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish. I’ll quote you a flat fee for the estate planning options we’ve discussed. Most everything I do is flat fee. It makes clients comfortable and that means it makes me comfortable.

I structure payment of fees so that clients know our interests are aligned: 50% of the legal fee to begin the work when the Engagement Letter is signed and the other 50% is not paid until we are sitting together in my office signing documents. That way clients understand that we’re on the same team and I want to have your estate plan put in place and completed with as much efficiency as you do. I never enjoy paying a service provider in full and I would never ask something of my clients that makes me uncomfortable in my own life. This is why I have never had any complaints about my fees in online reviews or otherwise.

I’m not a hard-sell attorney, I never put a client on the spot, and you’ll leave our meeting with an opportunity to digest everything we’ve discussed, from estate plan structure through fees, and make a decision at your own pace.

After Our Meeting

A few days after our meeting I send what clients have told me time and again is an extremely helpful email. It’s a summary of everything we discussed during our meeting. The email will discuss the planning options we discussed, the benefits / detriments of each approach, as well as the fees involved. An Engagement Letter will also be attached for your review and comment.

After you’ve decided to retain me and paid the first 50% of the legal fee I will begin drafting your estate plan.

The Drafting Process

It usually takes me 2-3 weeks to send a client the initial draft of their estate planning documents. You’ll then have as much time as you need to review your documents, however, if I don’t hear from you in approximately 2 weeks I will reach out and inquire as to how your review is going. Something I also take a lot of pride in is my willingness to review documents with clients. It’s important to me that my clients fully understand each and every provision of their estate plan, how it works in “plain English”, and that everything is to their satisfaction. Working through documents with a client typically involves some combination of client markup, conference calls, and even another meeting in my office to “flip pages” with the client and work our way through the documents together.

Like all good things, we will ultimately finalize your estate plan. We’ll then setup a time to come back to my office for your signing. I can act as notary and I have witnesses available in my office. Everything is quite convenient. My practice is quite modern, so you’ll receive PDF’s of each of your estate planning documents as well as your originals. Your originals will not just be dumped on you in an envelope, rather they will be nicely bound up in leather binders which will make it easy for you to care for, and not lose track of, them in the years ahead.

The Years Ahead

Although the work that we will do together to put your estate plan in place is of course transactional in nature, it does certainly have a beginning and an ending (your signing), I do not view your signing as the end of our relationship. Rather, I hope that it's the beginning of a lifetime relationship between us. I like to see my clients every 2-3 years, more often if you’d like, for an Estate Planning Checkup. This is not a cash grab, I put more basic amendments in place for my clients free of charge than I can count, but rather it’s an opportunity to make sure that the estate plan we put in place currently is still a good fit X years in the future. While the estate plans I draft are certainly designed to grow with you, life also has a way of thrusting change upon us. Are the guardians you’ve chosen still a good fit to raise your children? Is the asset distribution scheme you've devised for your children still appropriate? Has your wealth materially increased or decreased? Are you at a different stage in life where your estate planning priorities need to evolve? The list of reasons for us to meet every few years goes on and on and it’s a shame too many attorneys view estate planning as set it and forget it forever.

How to Get Started

Getting started it easy. Simply pick up the phone and call me or send me an email. I’m happy to personally speak with all inquiries before you make an appointment to come into my office. I’ll be very honest with whether I can help you and whether I’m the right fit for what you’re looking for.

…Or Contact Us Via Email