When it comes to estate planning, many people procrastinate. One of the reasons for this is anxiety about the logistical legwork necessary for the estate planning process. For the inexperienced, even the gathering of necessary documents for the initial meeting with your estate planning attorney can be daunting.
At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., where we serve estate planning clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, we understand the stress you may feel about your first consultation with our estate planning attorneys. We are here to reassure you that we are relaxed and responsive people as well as skilled lawyers, eager to assist you in planning an estate plan that meets your particular needs.
To that end, we have tried to make things easier. Below is a comprehensive list of documents you should try to bring to our initial meeting. Don’t worry. For one thing, there may be items on this list that are irrelevant to your case; for another, we will help you recover any missing paperwork. Most of the hard work on your part will be gathering your thoughts.
1. Names and Contact Information for Individuals Significant to Your Estate Plan
This category includes:
- List of Beneficiaries you wish to designate in your estate plan, together with the assets you want them to inherit. This list will be the foundation for the will and/or trusts we create for you. Note that if you die without a will (intestate), your estate will be distributed by the state and you will have no say in the matter.
- List of Personal Representatives, Trustees, Guardians, etc. whom you consider trustworthy.
This list will include friends or family members you consider completely dependable to do things like administer your estate, take care of your minor children if you and their other parent become unable to do, make healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated, etc.
Of course, these people will be named for special tasks. The person you name as your Health Care Proxy may be an inappropriate choice to take care of your children. Remember, this list should include current contact information.
2. Financial Documents Needed for Your Estate Plan
The more of the following papers you have crossed off your checklist, the more quickly and efficiently we will be able to handle the process:
- Deeds to Real Estate should include not only the house you inhabit, but any vacation home, shared house or condo, or property you have invested in, even if it is in another state or country.
- Bank, Brokerage, Pensions, and Retirement Accounts For each of these accounts — checking, savings, money market, brokerage (stocks, bonds, mutual funds), pension, IRA, etc. — include the account holder’s name, the account number, and the balance each account presently holds.
- Business Agreements are essential to the estate planning process since they contain information about what happens to the business when you are gone. If you are the sole or joint owner of a business, we will need your business contract, lease, or buy-sell agreement.
- Intellectual Property Documents may best be secured in a trust. In order to do this, we will require certificates of relevant trademarks, patents, and copyright registrations.
- Life Insurance Information for All Your Policies can make a significant difference in how we will set up your assets to protect your family’s future so this data is a crucial part of your estate planning.
- Documents Pertaining to Marriage and Divorce Will Help Clarify Your Estate Plan In order for us to fully understand the workings of your family and to arrange your estate plan as effectively as possible, it is also essential that you bring all agreements relevant to marriage and divorce to the table. Such documents include prenuptial and divorce agreements that may play a significant role in the way we structure your estate plan.
- Documents Specific to Your Personal Situation May Alter Your Estate Plan What are the factors that distinguish you and your family from others in terms of creating a resilient estate plan? Bring a list of such factors to share with your estate planning lawyer, e.g. Do you have a foster child? Has your family founded a charitable organization? Has your family been blended more than once? Do you have a child with special needs?
Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Now — and Bring Your Questions
No one expects you to have professional knowledge of estate planning. After all, that’s why you’re seeking legal guidance. Meeting with us is the perfect place to ask about probate, different types of trusts, financing your child’s education, or preparing for retirement. Contact Surprenant & Beneski today for an appointment so we can begin helping you organize your life and secure your future.