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Preparing for an estate planning consultation can seem daunting, but it’s an important step in protecting your assets and ensuring that your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. Whether you’re just starting to think about estate planning or have an existing plan that needs updating, taking the time to prepare for your consultation can make the process smoother and more efficient. These are some of our best tips for preparing for your estate planning consultation, so you can make the most of your time with your attorney and feel confident about the decisions you’re making.
1. Complete the Estate Planning Worksheet
After you’ve scheduled an estate planning consultation, most attorneys will ask that you complete an estate planning worksheet. Providing information about your family, financial situation, and estate planning goals before your consultation helps you and your attorney make the most of your time during your first meeting. The main goal of this first meeting with your attorney is to identify your estate planning goals and develop a plan for achieving them. Providing this information ahead of the meeting allows for more time during that initial consultation to dig into the complexities of your particular situation and to design a plan that achieves your goals. Keep in mind that your attorney will be relying on the information provided in this questionnaire, so filling it out as completely and accurately as possible is essential in getting off on the right foot to your estate planning journey.
2. Gather Documents
You should gather any documents that may be relevant to your estate plan. These may include:
- Copies of current wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, or living wills
- Documentation for your assets, such as real estate deeds, bank account and investment statements, and life insurance policies
- Documentation for your debts
- Information about your family members and other important people you’ll want to include in your estate plan, including their full legal names, addresses, and phone numbers
- If you are divorced, a copy of your divorce decree and separation agreement
- If you own a business, documents related to the businesses, including partnership agreements, operating agreements, and assets of and income generated by the business
This will give your attorney a better understanding of your current financial situation and allow them to identify any potential issues that may need to be addressed within your estate plan’s design.
3. Think About Important People to Include in Your Plan
Estate plans are often focused on ensuring that people we trust are in place to make decisions on our behalf and that the people we love are provided for after our death. Because of this, it’s important to consider, before your estate planning consultation, who these people are for you. Here are some important people to consider including in your estate plan:
- Beneficiaries: These are the people or organizations who will receive your assets after you pass away. Not only do you want to think about who to include here but also how you want your assets distributed to them.
- Executor: Your executor will be responsible for managing your estate after you pass away. Choose someone you trust and who has the skills and knowledge necessary to carry out your wishes.
- Trustee: If you have or are establishing a trust, you will need to name a trustee to manage the trust assets and distribute them according to your wishes.
- Guardian: If you have minor children, or children with special needs, you will want to nominate a person to serve as their guardian and care for them should something happen to you.
- Healthcare Agent: This is a person you trust to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. They are your healthcare advocate during these times, so it’s important they are aware of your wishes regarding medical care and life-sustaining support.
- Financial Power of Attorney: This is a person who you trust to manage your finances when you are unable to do so.
In addition to considering who you’d like to have in these roles, you also need to consider who you would want to act as an alternate, should your first choice be unable.
4. Consider Your Healthcare Wishes
A well-drafted estate plan will include healthcare directives identifying agents who can make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. These documents can also lay out your specific wishes when it comes to certain medical interventions. Before your estate planning consultation, you’ll want to think about the medical treatments you would want if you were unable to make decisions for yourself.
5. Create a List of Questions & Goals
The main purpose of your estate planning consultation is to identify your estate planning goals so that you and your attorney can design a plan that will ensure your assets are protected and your wishes are carried out. You’ll want to have a clear understanding of your goals going into this meeting. Think about whether you need your estate plan to include any of the following:
- Asset protection from creditors or lawsuits
- Direction on asset distribution after your passing
- Methods for minimizing estate taxes or avoiding probate
- Providing for the care of minor or disabled children and elderly parents
Remember, your estate planning attorney is there to help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or further explanation. By answering these questions and understanding your goals, your attorney will be able to create a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your specific needs.
By preparing for your estate planning consultation ahead of time, you can make the most of your time with your attorney and create a comprehensive plan that meets your specific needs. Remember to review and update your estate plan regularly to ensure that it stays current and accurately reflects your wishes. With careful planning and guidance from a trusted professional, you can have peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of and your legacy will be preserved. At Pierce Legal, we get to know each of our clients, gaining a meaningful understanding and relationship with you that allows us to create a thorough estate planning strategy that will satisfy all of your planning goals and needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at (330) 588-6115.