Instructions for Initial Consultations

Thank you for thinking about allowing me the opportunity to assist with your estate planning needs. I am grateful that you found this web site and are interested in the services of Mitchiner Law Firm, PLLC.

Though I am licensed to practice law in two states, North Carolina and Florida, I generally restrict my practice to clients and matters involving North Carolina. So, if you are seeking advice unique to Florida or some other state, you will need to find and retain other counsel. Otherwise, please proceed.

Life, legacy and estate planning is a serious matter. It is important to plan not only for death but also for incapacity (statistically a higher probability than early death)—and, perhaps, for other equally legitimate reasons. So, I pay special attention to the very personal nature of the work I do, whether for strangers, family or long-time friends.

This requires that I make a serious effort to know and understand as much about my clients as possible—their perspectives, priorities, concerns and relationships—not just their assets and liabilities. Plus, experience has taught me not to make any assumptions about what people actually know or have thought about, regardless of their level of sophistication or what any existing estate plan document says.

However, experience has also taught me not to try to accomplish all of the required fact-finding and plan-designing until after we are comfortable with what to expect of each other and how the process will work to move forward. The beginning of that process is the Initial Consultation. There is no charge for that meeting, which is limited to one hour.

To prepare for your initial conference, you must first download and save to a special, newly created folder on your computer—“Estate Planning” might be a good folder name—the following document:

Preliminary Questionnaire [DOWNLOAD – 1 Questionnaire-Prelim (Form).pdf]

After you initially DOWNLOAD and SAVE (actually, “SAVE AS”) the Questionnaire, you may print it out and complete it manually. Alternatively, after you download and save it initially, you can bounce from place to place, inserting data. Remember to RE-SAVE it frequently during the course of working with it. SPECIAL NOTE: To work properly, you must have installed on your computer either the free Adobe Acrobat Reader or a more robust version of Adobe. Whether you use a Mac or a PC, you cannot rely on any other viewer or any conversion program. The Questionnaire must be initially opened with the Adobe program, not just saved in a pdf format after having been opened in some other program.

NOTE: You can navigate the form either with your Mouse or the Tab key. Also, you can check the boxes either with your Mouse or the Enter key. If tabbing jumps over a grouping of boxes, it’s because that grouping requires an “exclusive” answer (i.e., either “yes” or “no”, not both). Other boxes allow “yes” and “no” answers to allow for husband/wife differences, which will be explored during our conference. This will make more sense once you begin working with it.

The Questionnaire is designed to give my office enough information to open a new file on you (because we must do so for everyone we meet), plus give me a general idea of what you are expecting to accomplish, including an economic context for our discussion.

In addition to the completed Questionnaire, it would be tremendously helpful to provide me with copies of all documentation which will be relevant to our discussion. Those documents are listed on the last page of the Questionnaire. This will enable me to review them prior to our meeting. Otherwise, my reviewing them for the first time during our meeting will consume most of our time, leaving less time to discuss anything else.

Please return the completed Questionnaire either by hand-delivery, postal mail or email. (Note: The form allows for a digital signature. If you do not have one and you return it by email, your email message will suffice. If you return it by hand-delivery or postal mail, please make sure that you sign it, either digitally or manually.) You can provide me with additional documents in whatever manner you deem appropriate. Upon receipt of all your information, someone from my office will call you to schedule a convenient time for your conference.

Here are three things I expect: (1) A fully completed Questionnaire; (2) Complete, legible copies of existing, relevant documents; (3) Attendance by each person who is needed to make a “go forward” or “stop” decision.

Here are three things you can expect at the conference: (1) Discussion of your answers to the Questionnaire to make sure I understand why we are meeting and that I am the right attorney for you; (2) Review of your existing documents for legal compliance and functionality; (3) A thorough explanation of my process and fees to move forward.

If you haven't already done so, I invite you to review between now and our conference the Frequently Asked Questions on my web site. It includes questions and general answers about fees. Also, I urge you to visit other areas of my web site. For instance, under Items of Interest, there are two articles I have written to help folks understand some things about estate planning that we will definitely be discussing. Reading them beforehand will likely enhance the planning process, making it less confusing and more efficient. One article is entitled, Who's Who and What's What in an Estate Plan, and the other is entitled, 4 Ways to Transfer Property. Please know that these articles are for general, educational purposes only. So, until we meet, I have no idea what kind of plan might be appropriate for you.

By the way, please understand that this process is not intended to complicate matters. We all like to keep things simple. But there is no universal definition of "simple", and there is a distinct difference between "simple and right" and "simple and wrong". I tend to favor a process which promotes peace of mind knowing that whatever we end up doing together is as simple as possible but, above all, right.

I look forward to our meeting. Feel free to call me if you have any questions.

Joe Mitchiner