Getting ready for estate planning requires you to not only gather the right documents, but also to create a list of what you want, to determine your expectations, and to be ready to answer important questions during the estate planning process. To ensure you are ready at your estate planning appointment with your attorney, ask for a checklist of items. Most attorneys have an initial consultation where they discuss the process and tell you what you need for your official planning appointment.
As you prepare for the first meeting, or if you are waiting for your initial consultation, we have compiled a list of things you can take care of ahead of time to save on extra appointments and to help speed along your estate planning process.
Gather Your Family Information
One step you need to complete before you plan anything out is your family information, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, ages, and relation to you (grandchild, child, sibling, etc.). These family members are those who will inherit from your estate, parties that may receive care after you pass, and you may even have a family member in mind for your executor.
Do not forget about any nicknames that family members may go by, so that when you draft your will, you can use clear indicators and there will be less room for contests later.
Financial information breaks down into two types: non-retirement and retirement. Both of these are important in estate planning, so you will need to gather information for each.
Non-Retirement Information to Gather
For your non-retirement information, you want assets that include things like your bank accounts, investments, stocks, and bonds.
If you have access to it, bring the titling of those assets, such as for your home. You can also bring along statements that show the account holders, account number and institution, and the exact balances. These balances are important, because they will help your estate planning attorney determine if your estate falls under the estate tax category.
Retirement Financial Information to Gather
Your retirement account is part of your estate. Therefore, you must gather information on any retirement accounts, even those you are no longer actively contributing to, but are there for distribution when you retire. This includes employer-sponsored programs, private retirement accounts, Roth IRAs, TSPs, and any retirement accounts you may have inherited from another spouse.
If it is an employer program, bring the institution name and employer information, beneficiary designations you filled out when you opened the retirement account, and the amount of the retirement plan at the time. Naturally, if you are still working, your retirement account will grow, but giving your attorney an idea of what asset amounts you have is always best.
Life Insurance Policy Information
Your attorney needs life insurance information, including the type of policy – such as whether it is a whole or term – beneficiaries named when you created the policy, the company holding it, and the payout amount.
Real Estate Financial Information
You must gather documents about any real estate property, including vacation homes or rental properties you own.
Bring the property address, ownership information (such as joint or sole ownership), the current market value, mortgage balances (if any), and indicate which properties are your primary residence, secondary, rental, or if any are part of a business.
Personal property are tangible items you plan to pass along to loved ones. They may hold more of a sentimental value than dollar amount, but they are still something you need to gather information for if you want to include them in your will or if you plan to transfer them into a trust.
Some property you need information on includes antiques, automobiles, art pieces, collectibles, and jewelry. If you know the value of the item, bring any valuations along. For example, you may have a piece of jewelry appraised as part of your homeowner’s insurance policy, which you can bring along.
Be Ready to Answer the Tough Questions
You have a lot of questions to answer while estate planning, and some of them are not easy. Not only are you addressing your mortality and the reality that you will eventually pass along items to loved ones, but you must pick and choose family members – which may cause tension within your family network.
Some questions you should write down and have answers to before your appointment include:
- Who in the family will receive which tangible property items? Make sure you are specific about those items.
- Will there be any family members excluded from the will entirely?
- How much, if any, do you intend to leave to charity, organizations, or churches?
- Which party will you name as your executor, and who can serve as a backup if your initial pick is unavailable at the time?
- Do you want to serve as your trust’s trustee, or do you wish to appoint someone else?
- Do you have minor children? If so, who will care for them? If that party cannot, who is the secondary party to care for your children?
- How will you ensure minor children have the funds they need in order to be cared for?
- Will you want a living will and durable power of attorney created at your appointment? If so, who will you name as your proxy for those documents?
- Have you planned out your funeral arrangements? If so, write down the details of how you would like your funeral completed and any receipts for prepayments made toward it.
- Do you plan to donate, if any, of your organs?
Not Sure Where to Start? Contact a Local Estate Planning Attorney First
Figuring out a good starting point, especially with estate planning, can be incredibly difficult. Not only do you have numerous documents to track down, but difficult questions to answer. It is best to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a local estate planning attorney first.
Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin can help with your estate planning needs. He has helped countless others just like you navigate the nuances of estate planning so that they can protect their assets, legacy, and loved ones without the stress of trying to do it alone.
To explore your options and to start the process, schedule a free case evaluation or request more information online.