Last week I received a call from a potential client who had read one of my articles about revocable trusts and wanted to meet with me to find out if he needed one. We set up an appointment for later this week and then I promptly emailed the potential client a copy of my estate planning questionnaire. About an hour later he called back and told my assistant that he wanted to cancel the meeting and did not want to reschedule and when asked why, he said because he was not going to give me any of his financial information.
As I have said many times before, the real key to good estate planning is knowing how your property is titled and an estimate of what it's worth. This is because how the property is titled dictates who will inherit it after you die and if it will have to go through probate, and how much it's worth will dictate the type of probate required (summary administration vs. formal administration in Florida where I practice) and if it will be subject to estate taxes (federal and/or state).
So, getting back to the potential client, he wanted me to advise him on whether or not he needed a revocable trust, and yet he was not willing to provide me with any of his financial information. One of the reasons for setting up a revocable trust in Florida is to avoid probate, and, as mentioned above, how your property is titled and how much it's worth will determine if summary or formal Florida probate will be required. So, in essence, this potential client was asking me to answer his question - Do I need a revocable trust? - without providing me with the information I would need to answer the question. This would be like asking a doctor if you need an appendectomy but not letting the doctor examine you. Mission impossible.