It is important to prepare for your estate planning meeting.
You have scheduled an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney.
You have taken the first important step to protecting everyone you love and everything you have.
By simply making an appointment, you are ahead of the majority of your American peers in estate planning.
According to a recent The National Law Journal article titled “Preparing for an Estate Planning Consultation: 10 Items to Consider Before Meeting Your Attorney,” there are still steps you should take before you arrive to discuss your estate planning objectives.
The time you invest now will pay dividends later with an custom estate plan unique to your circumstances.
So, how should you prepare for your estate planning meeting?
Consider who you want to rear your minor children.
If you have minor children and both parents die, your orphaned progeny could find themselves in a vulnerable situation.
If you fail to legally nominate a guardian (i.e., backup parent), the court will select an individual to rear your children.
The individual selected by the judge may not hold your same values and parenting style, let alone be your first, second or third choice.
Before you arrive at the estate planning meeting, you should decide on this critical role in your estate plan.
While you are at it, I recommend that you appoint a few level of successor guardians just in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.
When it comes to estate planning, such redundancy is at once practical and prudent.
It is wise to discuss your wishes with these individuals to ensure their agreement and availability.
Because minor children cannot manage their own inheritance, consider creating a trust to administer their inheritance according to your instructions.
Choose agents, executors, and trustees.
Your finances and estate will need to be managed by someone if you are unable to do so yourself.
This can happen either through your incapacity or your death.
If you become incapacitated, you will want to designate an “attorney in fact” (i.e., an agent) in a general durable power of attorney to pay bills, file your taxes, and make necessary purchases on your behalf.
If you die, your estate will need to be settled and assets distributed according to your wishes.
With a last will and testament, you will designate an executor.
If you choose to include a trust in your estate plan, you will designate trustees.
These individuals have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of their services.
Discuss an advance health care directive and durable power of attorney for health care decisions.
To prepare for your estate planning meeting, you will need to consider health care matters.
If you are incapacitated, you should legally designate an agent to make your health care decisions.
You should also create a health care treatment directive (i.e., living will) to provide instructions on desired forms of treatment.
Inventory personal property.
Not all assets are cash, bank accounts, or investments.
Some assets include tangible personal property.
You will want to create a list of items with either monetary or sentimental value and designate who is to receive specific items on the list.
Real estate, businesses interests, retirement funds, and life insurance should also be included in your estate plan.
Include charitable donations.
Are you passionate about leaving a lasting legacy?
Leaving charitable distributions gives you an opportunity to do this and can provide tax benefits.
Select beneficiaries for distributions.
When entering your estate planning meeting, remember not all assets are distributed through a last will and testament or under a revocable living trust.
Some assets like life insurance proceeds and retirement plans are distributed through beneficiary designations.
Take the time to review your current selections and make any necessary updates to align them with your comprehensive estate plan.
Plan for surviving pets.
Some pets outlive their owners.
When this happens, they may be left with no support or care.
Some states allow people to create “pet trusts” to benefit any family members with feathers, fins, or fur.
There is certainly a lot to consider in estate planning, yes?
Again, your pre-consultation preparation now will pay big dividends later in the form of an estate plan that reflects your goals and your current situation.
Reference: The National Law Journal (Feb. 23, 2021) “Preparing for an Estate Planning Consultation: 10 Items to Consider Before Meeting Your Attorney”