Becoming a Client of John M. Tassillo, Jr. • Morristown, NJ Estate Planning Attorney

Preparing for Your Initial Estate Planning Appointment

Congratulations on taking personal responsibility for your Estate Planning and thank you for selecting our firm to assist you. Reading through the following steps will acquaint you with our process, our services and the fees associated with your introductory appointment.

Our Initial Estate Planning Consultation Protocol

Once your introductory appointment is scheduled, you should complete for our review an Estate Planning Questionnaire.

At your option, we may send these documents to you either in the US Postal mail or as an e-mail attachment. Alternatively, you may download these documents directly from this website.

Complete the information to the best of your ability and return the completed document to us by email to me at,, or send by regular mail, preferably at least one calendar week before your introductory appointment.

Before your introductory appointment, I will review the Estate Planning Questionnaire. Accordingly, the more considered your responses and the more detailed the information you provide, the more accurate my review and preparation for your introductory appointment.

The first half-hour of your introductory appointment is complimentary. During the first half-hour, I will confirm my understanding of your responses to the Estate Planning Questionnaire, both clarifying and supplementing as needed, and discussing your estate planning objectives.

At the end of the first half-hour, I will give you my opinion regarding: (1) whether we may be able to assist you with your planning objectives; (2) the planning alternatives I would recommend to meet your objectives; and (3) and estimate of the fees for the various planning alternatives.

If you choose to retain our services to implement the planning alternative you select, you would then be asked to sign an Engagement Letter detailing the services to be provided.  We would also discuss an estimate of the fees. You also would pay one-half (1/2) of the estimated planning fees to bind the Engagement Letter at that time, and we would schedule a mutually convenient time and date to sign your legal documents. The balance of the fees would be due and payable when the legal documents are signed.  Alternatively, we can proceed with our engagement on an hourly fee basis.

While it would be helpful, there is no need to go on a "treasure hunt" at this point for financial or legal documents, stock certificates or insurance policies. Sometimes we find clients procrastinate in getting their planning done because they cannot locate, or do not have time to locate, all of these documents. In reality, these documents may not be needed until you make your planning alternative selection. On the other hand, make sure you spend the time before your introductory appointment contemplating the Three P's of Estate Planning described below.

Understanding the Three P’s of Estate Planning

#1 – People

Who are the Important People in your life? Beginning with yourself, they also likely include your loved ones: your spouse if you are married, children and grandchildren if you have any, perhaps your parents, siblings or other relatives. Beyond these, however, "Important People" also could include charities, special causes, colleges or universities, or churches to which you are committed. For some, "Important People" could even include pets. Spend some time thinking about the impact others have had on your life. Make a list and jot notes if you like. This is where the planning process truly begins.

#2 – Property

By Property we mean your assets in general. Make a list of the assets you own or control. At this point, you do not need to identify insurance policy numbers and exact dollar values. Rather think through your assets in terms of their nature (cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.); their value in thousands of dollars; and your ownership interest: Do you own assets in your name only, in joint tenancy with someone else, or through a trust agreement or some other arrangement? Be sure to include often-overlooked assets like life insurance (the death benefit, not the cash value), business interests, and any inheritance you may expect to receive.

#3 – Plans

After identifying the Important People in your life and your Property, the next step is to consider the plans you would make for those people (including yourself) and that Property in the event of your own incapacity or death.

Who would you name to make decisions for you if you could no longer do so yourself? Would the same person handle your finances and your personal and health care decisions? Who would care for your minor children? How would you distribute your assets to your heirs? Would you prefer to spare your heirs the potential cost and hassles of the probate process? Would you like to minimize the impact of estate taxes ... or maximize the impact of a charitable bequest? Is there someone in your family with special needs for whom you would like to provide? Is there someone who perhaps should not receive a great deal of (or any) money without some outside oversight?

These are just a few of the issues to consider when approaching the planning process. They are much more important than the "treasure hunt" for legal documents at this stage.

Statement Regarding Fees

I realize that you may have some questions about how I charge for my services. Please see the attached memorandum.

John M. Tassillo, Jr.

John M. Tassillo, Jr.

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Education Series

Estate planning is very personal, yet the issues can be complex. During our meetings, we often use our whiteboard to illustrate techniques, and summarize family information. I believe it important that every client understand the options that may be available, and that all planning ideas be presented in an easy to understand manner. My 10 years of experience teaching as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in New Jersey has helped me develop a unique style of presenting materials to clients and their advisors. As a courtesy to friends and clients, we also conduct workshops on current estate planning and business topics. Please sign up for our next workshop.
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John M. Tassillo, Jr. Estate Planning and Business Attorney serves clients throughout New Jersey and the Surrounding Areas.

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