As you undoubtedly realize, having an estate plan in place is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and to your loved ones. Having never worked on an estate plan before, however, you may feel a little intimidated about your upcoming appointment. To help put you at ease, and to make the most out of your appointment, the Estate Planning Lawyers at the Collins Law Firm offer you the following tips on preparing for your upcoming consultation.
When you think about estate planning, you likely focus on executing your Last Will and Testament to ensure that your estate assets are distributed according to your wishes. Your Will may serve as the foundation for your estate plan; however, a comprehensive estate plan can accomplish much more than just the division of your estate assets when you are gone. What other estate planning goals do you wish to include? Common goals include:
- Incapacity planning
- Asset protection
- Probate avoidance
- Retirement planning
- Strategies for parents with minor children
Assets and Debts
You likely have a fairly good idea of where you stand financially; however, when it comes time to create your estate plan you need very detailed information. Make a list of all assets, including current fair market value (FMV) for each, and any identifying information such as account numbers, login and passwords, and/or the asset’s location. Make another corresponding list of debts and liabilities.
Your estate planning lawyer will probably need to look at, and/or gather information from, a number of documents you likely have in your possession. By putting these together ahead of time your initial consultation will be more productive. Examples of documents you should gather, if you have them, include:
- Previous Wills
- Birth certificates
- Marriage and divorce documents
- Trust agreements
- Living Will
- Power of attorney
- Life insurance policies
- Business documents for incorporation/partnership/buy-sell agreements etc.
- Ownership documents for major assets
Fiduciaries and Other Roles
You probably already know who your major beneficiaries will be; however, there are a number of other important roles within your estate plan that you should be contemplating right now. Fiduciary roles, in particular, should be given considerable though so you can avoid a problem down the road. Who do you want to appoint as the Executor of your estate, for instance? Do not make the common mistake of appointing a spouse, friend, or family member without considering the duties and responsibilities involved in overseeing the probate of an estate. Likewise, if you decide to include a trust in your plan, you will need to appoint a Trustee. Your Trustee will not only be responsible for managing and investing your assets but will also be responsible for protecting your beneficiaries.
Since this is the first time you have created an estate plan, you are certain to have questions. To ensure that you do not forget to ask any of them, take the time now to write them down. That way you will be prepared when the time comes. In addition, you may only have a short period of time during your initial consultation, so the better prepared you are, the more productive the meeting will be in general.
Contact The Collins Law Group
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about estate planning, consult with one of our Estate Planning Attorneys. Contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 and online at collinslawgroup.com to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.