May 31, 2018
As a service to our clients, we are sharing guidance on what to bring to your first estate planning meeting with our firm. Based on our decades of estate planning experience, we ask our clients to spend time considering some key questions, and assembling important documents and lists.
Our list of what to bring to your first estate planning meeting is only meant to be a guide. There may be more information or documents that we will need as we work with you and your family to draft a detailed and thorough estate plan for you. Every family situation is unique and, as such, the relevant questions and required documents will vary.
Give Yourself Peace of Mind
A properly crafted estate plan can give you peace of mind, knowing your assets are well protected. Our estate planning lawyers will help you get there.
What to Bring to Your First Estate Planning Meeting with Our Firm
As estate planning professionals, we do not expect you to have all of the answers, but before the meeting you should think about and prepare some of the following items.
Key Estate Planning Questions and Considerations
- Family Information: Bring the legal names, ages, and contact information for yourself, your spouse, children (whether they are being cut out or not), stepchildren and grandchildren. If others will be named as beneficiaries, guardians, POAs, trustees, personal representatives, bring their names and contact information with as well, such as: parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and others that may be involved in your estate plan.
- Beneficiary Thoughts: Think about who you would like to name as beneficiaries and if are there any charities or people who you want to receive certain items or a certain dollar amount. Is there anyone you want to “cut out” and make sure that they are not included as a beneficiary?
- Personal Representative: Who would you like to serve as personal representative of your will? Who are alternates to name if your first choice is unable, unwilling or ceases to act?
- Trustee: Who would you like to serve as trustee of any trust (often the same as the personal representative)? Who are alternates to name if your first choice is unable, unwilling or ceases to act?
- Guardian for Minor Children: Would you like to appoint a guardian to care for any minor children? Who are alternates to name if your first choice is unable, unwilling or ceases to act?
- Health Care Agent: Who do you want to make your health decisions, if you cannot, under your Power of Attorney for Health Care? Who are alternates to name if your first choice is unable, unwilling or ceases to act? What is your philosophy on being kept alive artificially if you are unable to make your own decisions and if there is not a reasonable chance of recovery? Do you want to donate your organs or donate your body to science?
- Financial Agent: Who do you want to make your financial decisions, if you cannot do so while you are still alive, under your Durable Power of Attorney? Who are alternates to name if your first choice is unable, unwilling or ceases to act?
- Funeral Instructions: Do you want to leave basic instructions for your funeral arrangements if you have not preplanned your funeral? Who do you want in charge if you have not preplanned your funeral.
- Successors: If a beneficiary or beneficiaries predecease you, what will happen to his or her inheritance. For example, if a child predeceases you, will the child’s share go to the deceased child’s children? What if a child predeceases you without any children surviving? It is important that your estate plan take “next steps” in identifying your beneficiaries as well as successor trustees, POAs, personal representatives, guardians, etc.
Important Estate Planning Documents to Bring
- Asset information: A list of assets such as bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, vehicles, investments, etc. This does not need to be a formal list, but approximate value information should be included. It is helpful to note if there are beneficiaries named on any asset and/or if there are any joint owners. If you have a copy of your house deed, that can also be helpful to have at our meeting. We normally do not ask for account numbers or social security numbers at our first meeting, unless this information is required to prepare your estate plan.
- Existing estate planning documents: Any existing Last Wills and Testaments, Durable Power of Attorneys, Financial Power of Attorneys, Power of Attorney for Heath Care, Revocable Trusts or Irrevocable Trusts, Transfer on Death Deeds, Life Estate Deeds, and any other estate planning documents that you may have, even if they are old and outdated.
By anticipating family changes in the future, and by naming alternate agents and beneficiaries, our goal is to create an estate plan that won’t have to be updated at all or at least not very often. By preparing in advance of the first meeting, it helps us to make the first meeting as productive as possible.
We’re Here for You
To schedule a consultation about your estate planning needs, or to discuss what you should bring to your first estate planning meeting, we invite you to get in touch directly with us.