Congratulations, you have taken the first important step and have made an appointment with a qualified estate planning attorney to create an estate plan or review an existing plan. You’re looking forward to the reassurance that comes from knowing that your retirement, your legacy, and your family’s future are secure. Now it’s time to get all your ducks in a row before this consequential meeting. This article outlines how to prepare for your estate planning consultation to ensure that your 90-minutes with the attorney are productive and beneficial to you.
It’s important to begin this preparation process early enough to find any papers you may have misfiled or misplaced, any documents that have not been updated or that were never created in the first place.
3 Critical Reasons to Spend Time Organizing Your Documents
- You and/or your loved ones will need easy access to these documents in the event of a medical or other crisis.
- For consultations at Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we ask that prior to your consultation, you complete a worksheet to provide to the Attorney in advance of your meeting. Many of the details will come from the documents listed. By completing and submitting the worksheet in advance of your consultation, you help the attorney to better prepare for your meeting. This allows the focus of the 90 minute consultation to be on better understanding your goals, discussing options that achieve your goals, education on specific estate planning tools being recommended and proposed pricing.
- Additionally, hard copies of some of the following documents may be required to facilitate some of the crafting and/or execution of your estate plan. In fact, be sure to submit any existing estate planning documents you have with your completed worksheet in advance of your consultation.
Your estate planning attorney will need knowledge of all of your assets, pertinent insurance, tax, and contact information of those you choose for important roles, such as your designated personal representative/executor.
Important Information / Documents You Should Compile
- Existing estate plan documents
- Bank records of all your accounts
- Tax records for the past 7 years
- Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, retirement accounts, etc.
- Deeds of ownership for your home and any other property
- Insurance policies for your home and vehicles, and riders or separate policies
for any collections of art, jewelry, antiques, classic cars, etc.
- Contact information for personal representatives/executors, healthcare agents, guardians, trustees
- Marriage, divorce, birth, and adoption records
- Business agreements, including leases and buy-sell agreements
- Records of your intellectual property, such as trademarks, patents, and copyrights
Why Having an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Is Crucial
Whether you are starting fresh or updating and refining a previous estate plan, you will need the strong legal background and keen estate planning skills of a well-respected estate planning law team. If you are located in Southeastern Massachusetts or Cape Cod, Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. fills the bill.
The advantages of partnering with our legal team include:
- Avoiding probate cost
- Minimizing tax responsibilities
- Protecting your right to choose types of medical treatment you want in an emergency
- Choosing who will make health decisions for you if you become incapacitated
- Preventing loss of government benefits if you require long-term care
- Making sure that, when you pass, your assets are distributed according to your wishes
- Preserving your legacy by planning for business succession and charitable contributions
Although all of these advantages may not pertain in your particular case, many of them will. It is important that you provide current and accurate information to your attorney because she or he cannot create a proper estate plan for you if the “facts” it is predicated on are inaccurate.
Things to Think About Before Your Estate Planning Appointment
While collecting the necessary documents for your meeting with your estate planning attorney is clearly a significant part of the preparation process, mental preparation is also essential. Not only does this involve confronting your own mortality, but it also requires making some crucial, often difficult decisions. Below are examples of questions you may have to ask yourself, depending on your particular circumstances:
- Who do I want to include in the estate planning process? Would it be helpful to include your financial advisor, the person you are selecting as your personal representative or any/all of your children. If someone is an heir or beneficiary, should you discuss the plan with them? If you are creating a business succession plan, should that person be included in the conversation?
- Who do I feel is the best person to advocate for my medical care? Who will serve best in conversations regarding your medical decisions or implementing your advance directives?
- Who is most likely to enforce my wishes about medical treatment & end-of-life care?
If you don’t want any extreme methods used to prolong your life during your final illness, don’t pick a health care proxy whose belief system or emotional connection may make turning off a respirator impossible. Conversely, if you want every possible measure taken to keep your heart beating, don’t choose someone who may “pull the plug” too quickly.
- Who is the best person to be my executor? Guardian for my young children?
Don’t automatically pick your oldest adult child or your closest friend. Choose someone with impeccable integrity and a grasp of financial/ familial matters. And always choose an alternative individual in case your first choice predeceases you or is unavailable due to unforeseen issues.
- How do I want my assets distributed after I pass away?
Give serious thought as to whether you want to include someone outside of your nuclear family as a beneficiary to reward extraordinary loyalty or disinherit someone for betraying your trust.
- Are there special factors to be considered in leaving an inheritance to one individual?
Is one of your beneficiaries unreliable with money or addicted to substances or destructive behavior? Does one have special needs and require protection of her/his government benefits?
- Who is capable and desirous of taking over my business?
Be realistic about choosing who will inherit your business. Leaving it to someone who has no interest or aptitude in business is unwise.
- How do I want to shape my legacy?
Consider your priorities: How important is it to you to leave a large sum to your favorite charity or to establish a foundation in your name?
Above all, make a list of questions to ask your estate planning attorney in order to come away from your consultation satisfied that you understand concepts surrounding probate, taxes, trusts (revocable and irrevocable), and any other matters that may confuse you.
Contact Surprenant & Beneski Today to Prepare for Tomorrow