So, you’re meeting with an attorney to do your last will and testament and other estate planning documents, what do you need to know or do?
- Estate Planning Questionnaire. If the attorney sends you a questionnaire, fill it out prior to the initial consultation. Why do you need to do that? The following are just some of the reasons why you need to fill it out. In order to effectively represent your interests and meet your needs, your attorney needs to know your assets – which ones are subject to an estate administration (e.g., tangible personal property, bank accounts, etc.), which ones are not (e.g., IRAs, 401(k) with a beneficiary surviving you, etc.), and the size of your estate (whether you need estate tax planning). Notwithstanding the size of your estate, you need to give this information to your attorney. The data in the questionnaire aids in discovering assets located in another state (e.g., land) which are subject to that state’s laws (during your lifetime and upon your death), planning for minor, incompetent or spendthrift beneficiaries who need a trust, knowing obligations/debts which could affect your estate planning, etc. Just reflect on every asset which you own or have and think about who will handle it if your become incapacitated or incompetent or pass away and who will benefit from those assets and how each will benefit. For the foregoing reasons and other reasons, your estate planning attorney needs to know your assets so they can do his or her job for you.
- Current Estate Planning Documents. If you have a current will, trust, power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will, whether executed in another state or your state of residence, you need to bring those documents into the initial estate planning conference. Even if the documents have been executed in another state, they still may be effective in your state of residence. It may be possible to do a minor change to your documents, rather than having to redo them in their entirety.
- Agreements Affecting Your Estate Planning. Some agreements affect your ability to do estate planning or effect your estate planning – separation agreements, pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, operating agreements for limited liability companies, bylaws for corporations (C or S corporation), buy-sell agreements, family limited partnership agreements, leases, sales contracts, etc. All of these foregoing agreements can affect your estate planning options and thus should be given to your attorney to review in order to prepare your estate planning documents.
- If You Have Time. While the following would be great to know and would be helpful, they are not necessary for the initial consultation. If your extended family has prepared estate planning documents (e.g., irrevocable trust – can’t change for the most part) of which you are a beneficiary, then those documents need to be reviewed by your attorney as they may affect your estate planning documents. Your attorney should also review copies of deeds for real property to ensure how they are titled, copies of recent bank and financial statement to ensure how they are titled and the amount of your assets and, finally, confirmation as to who is the primary and secondary/contingent beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, annuities and retirement benefits (e.g., 401(k), IRAs, etc.).
Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A.’s estate planning attorneys offer a free, one hour consultation to discuss your estate planning needs (e.g., wills, trusts, powers of attorney, etc.). If we can be of any help, please contact us.