You’ve finally decided to meet with an estate planning attorney and get your affairs in order. It’s time to make sure your family is protected. Now that you’ve scheduled the first appointment, what’s your next step?
You can do one of two things:
(1) Simply wait for the meeting date to arrive, or
(2) Get yourself organized and prepared for the first meeting.
Three Things To Do Before Your Meeting
Taking time to sort through your important papers and get your thoughts in order will go a long way towards making the meeting productive and valuable. Here are three things you can do to prepare for your meeting:
1. Make a complete list of your assets and liabilities.
a. List what you own (e.g., bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, and life insurance).
b. Note how you own it (e.g., in your name only or joint with your spouse or someone else such as a child or sibling).
c. Indicate whether you have already designated a beneficiary for an account or policy. (You may want to review your designated beneficiary with the company if it’s been a while since they were named.)
d. Record how much you owe (e.g., mortgages, car loans and credit cards).
2. Think about who you want to inherit your estate, when they’ll inherit it, and how they’ll inherit it.
There are many ways to pass your property to beneficiaries, including outright, in stages (such as after college or after getting married), at specific ages, or in lifetime discretionary trusts. It’s wise to consider the advice of your attorney, but you’ll also want to think about each beneficiary’s current needs and what they may need in the future.
3. Consider who you want to be in charge if you become incapacitated or die.
Along with naming a Guardian for any minor children, naming a person (or several people) to serve as Executor of your Will, Successor Trustee of your Trust, Attorney in Fact of your Power of Attorney, and/or Health Care Agent for your Medical Directive is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you choose the wrong person for the job—or if someone you choose declines to serve, or can’t serve—the estate plan that you carefully put together can come to a grinding halt. You’re entrusting your estate and your own care to their judgment. Consider which of your family members or friends who would be good candidates…and who wouldn’t.
Though it might seem like a lot of trouble to go to right now, you’ll discover that your up-front preparation was time well spent once you get to that meeting!