Estate Planning: How to Prepare for Your First Meeting with an Attorney

There are several important decisions that need to be made when you meet with your attorney to develop an estate plan. Many of these decisions require a good amount of thought, and discussion between you and your spouse. In fact, sometimes the seriousness of these decisions prevents people from getting a plan done at all. If you are ready to get an estate plan in place, here is a list of things to think through before meeting with an attorney.

  1. Who do you want to receive your financial assets?
  2. Who do you want to receive your house or other real estate?
  3. Do you want to make sure particular belongings go to certain people?
  4. Do you want to leave any of your financial assets to a charity?
  5. Do you have a child or family member with special needs that you want to take care of?
  6. If you have minor children, do you want you want to plan for a worst case scenario of you and your spouse passing together?
    1. If you do want to plan for your minor children, who would you want their guardian to be?
    2. Who would you trust to manage your money for the benefit of your children?
  7. If you create a trust, who would you pick as the trustee to manage the money in your trust?
  8. If your spouse cannot make serious health care decisions for you, then who would you trust to make those decisions?
  9. Who would you pick to be your agent to handle your day to day financial obligations such as going to the bank when you no longer can, or dealing with your investment accounts?
  10. If you have adult children, do you want to protect their inheritance from their potential marital problems or creditor issues?
  11. Do you want to preserve your assets so your grandchildren will benefit from them?

These are just a few questions to begin to think about. In addition to questions like these, your attorney will want to learn about your assets. Although it requires some work, you should make a detailed list of your assets. Information for each asset such as the name of the owner, the primary beneficiary, the secondary beneficiary, and the value will help the attorney recommend an appropriate plan for you. Getting this information together will also allow you to follow up on what your attorney recommends, whether it is retitling the owner of certain assets to your trust, or changing the beneficiary to your trust. Here are the types of assets that should go on your list.

  1. Interest in any real estate that you own including your home, commercial property, vacant land, vacation homes, family cottages, land contracts, leases, timeshares, etc.
  2. Titled assets such as motorhomes, manufactured homes, vehicles, recreational vehicles, etc.
  3. Business interests in a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other business entities.
  4. Investment accounts such as retirement plans, pensions, IRA’s, 401k’s, brokerage accounts, cd’s, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
  5. Bank accounts such as checking, savings, and money market accounts.
  6. Insurance policy information for life insurance, long-term care insurance, or other types of insurance. Insurance information for your home and vehicles is not relevant.

If the thought of preparing to meet with an attorney seems like too much work, just go ahead and get an appointment setup. The attorney will help you see how important an estate plan is and help guide you through the decision making process. Getting a plan in place now will not only help you at a time of need, but will help your loved ones.

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