In these unprecedented times, a “meeting” with prospective clients has taken on many different forms.  Whether I meet with clients virtually via a Zoom or WebEx video conference, a traditional teleconference, or a socially distanced in-person meeting wearing a protective face covering, I rely on my intake form now more than ever to make sure that I capture all of the details needed to recommend and commence work on clients’ estate planning documents. 

To make sure you’ve covered all the bases, here are 7 pieces of information you should confirm are included in your intake form or you should consider adding to your intake form:


My estate planning practice focuses primarily on residents in South Florida — a part of Florida which has a diverse population including citizens from Latin America, Europe, and Canada.  You should never assume that a client that walks into your office (or you meet virtually) is a citizen of the United States. 

Clients that are not citizens of the United States (green card holders) or are citizens of other countries potentially require additional planning for tax purposes and/or coordination of their United States based estate planning with their planning in their other country of citizenship.  


Married clients that are on a second (or even third marriage) are more likely to have a pre- or post-nuptial agreement that sets forth terms that will govern the disposition of their property in the event of a divorce and may even set forth terms for what a surviving spouse is entitled to (and waivers of certain state spousal inheritance rights) in the event of a death of the first spouse. 

In addition to asking clients whether they have entered into a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, you should ask for a copy of the agreement for your files and review it prior to drafting estate planning documents. 

If a client is divorced, you should ask for a copy of the divorce settlement agreement which may impact the dispositive provisions of a client’s estate plan.  Your intake form should prompt you to ask for these documents.


This may sound basic, however, on many occasions, I will ask clients the names of their children and one of the children shares the same name as their father. 

  • Mr. Mark A. Jones has a son named Mark Jones.  Is son Mark’s legal name Mark A. Jones, Mark Jones Jr., does Mark go by another name (i.e. an AKA)? 

  • How about daughter Mary Jones — what last name is she using — maiden name or married name?  It’s important to refer to the correct legal name for all parties involved in the estate plan


For many families, special needs planning is a critical part of their estate planning.  It is becoming more common to have clients that have a child or dependent that has special needs that require their receipt of governmental assistance or benefits. 

Your intake form should prompt you to ask whether the client has children or dependents that have special needs and if so, what those needs are and whether that person is receiving governmental assistance. An inheritance could jeopardize that beneficiary’s receipt of governmental assistance. 

Further, if a parent is a legal guardian of a child or an adult with special needs, some additional questions should be asked to determine planning for guardianship after the parent’s death.


For some reason, clients still find comfort in keeping “valuables” in a traditional safe deposit box at a bank.  Safe deposit boxes can add unnecessary complexities upon the death of our clients because they generally can only be opened with a court order. 

If your attempt to convince your client to close a safe deposit box has failed, you should obtain the address and box information for the safe deposit box.  You should also confirm who the lessees are on the box.


Over the years, I have been surprised by the number of meetings with potential clients that start with “I want to be buried here” or “I want to be cremated.”

Confirming the details with the potential clients (name of facility, whether the arrangements prepaid, whether they have specific lots, what do they want to do with their remains if cremated– do they go to a particular person (yes – families fight over their deceased family member’s remains) and also confirming whether their family knows of their wishes are critical details to include in your intake and notes. 


Oftentimes, I will meet with a widow or widower to discuss updating their estate plan now that their spouse has passed on. 

In some cases, I was not the attorney who drafted the estate planning documents for the deceased spouse and did not handle the estate administration. 

It is important to obtain information about the deceased spouse’s estate including whether a Federal Estate Tax Return was filed for the deceased spouse.  The information reported on the Estate Tax Return, including whether an election for portability of the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption was made, will impact the planning you do for the widow or widower.