FLOWOOD — Should estate planning be simple and for everyone, regardless of income and assets? A metro area law firm answers a resounding “yes” and has started a program to make estate planning as easy as 1, 2, 3. In the development stage for several years, the program Estate Planning 123 was recently begun by Barnes, Broom, Dallas & McLeod, PLLC, of Flowood.
“Remember the old saying, ‘It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3’? Walt Dallas, one of the firm’s principals, said. “We felt like that expression so accurately reflected our approach to estate planning that we incorporated it into the name of our trademarked program, Estate Planning 123.
The program is designed to allow estate planning to be done more quickly and easily, but with completeness and proper legal guidance. It is estimated that more than 90% of people in the U.S. do not have estate-planning documents. This is a way that many can get access to this needed service.”
Bonnie Childers, client services director, says the firm has been doing estate planning for years and saw the need for estate planning that’s easy and affordable for everyone.
“Our Estate Planning 123 is wonderful and exciting,” she said. “It’s a good thing for everyone to have. We recommend it for all income levels.”
Why do estate planning? The simple answer is that you care about others. Another answer is that you may need someone to take care of you if you cannot do so.
“Most people put it off. They don’t want to deal with it, but everyone has a need for it,” Childers says. “People work hard for their money and should be assured that it will go where they want it to go.”
She says everyone needs a will, trust and a power of attorney. A healthcare power of attorney is very important too. “That’s part of the plan and putting deeds in the trust plan is, too,” she added. “That protects a home from creditors and bankruptcy.”
The program begins with a discovery meeting that’s free of charge to prospective clients. “We have the discovery meeting to learn all about them and their needs,” Childers said. “It usually takes one to two hours, and we discuss everything about the client, their family and assets.”
As these matters involve family as well as financial issues, both spouses are asked to attend the discovery meeting.
Staff members then prepare a plan specifically for the client that can be ready in two weeks. “We can develop a plan quickly to fit the client’s unique needs,” she said. “We advise them on what they need.”
Each document is reviewed by an experienced attorney with the firm, all of whom have training in taxation, to make sure the plan meets client needs and complies with federal and state laws.
“Clients have the benefit of a tax attorney and the cost effectiveness of a paralegal working for them,” Childers said. “Some places charge as much as $6,000 for these packages. The price we quote is all you pay. There are no hidden costs.”
She added that staff members will prepare a personalized letter explaining the documents in ‘plain English,’ not legalese. “Thus, clients will be able to understand how the documents work,” she said.
People have different needs, but all kinds of trusts can be prepared, including education, marital, bypass and charitable trusts. Most complete estate plans contain at least a will and/or a revocable living trust; a durable power of attorney; and a healthcare directive. Estate Planning 123 automatically bundles the documents the client needs in a neat package and will not use less than these basic documents. A list of assets with general estimates of value is required, but only those valued above $5,000.
The new program is getting a good response and Childers says clients are satisfied and surprised that it’s so easy.
In addition to Flowood, the firm has offices in Hattiesburg and Oxford.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.