OK, so you've finally decided that it's time for you to meet with an estate planning attorney, but what's next? You can do one of two things: (1) Wait for the meeting date, or (2) Get yourself organized and prepared in advance of the meeting. Can you guess which type of prospective client I prefer to meet with?
Getting yourself organized and prepared for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney will go a long way to making the meeting more productive and valuable for both you and your attorney. Otherwise, the meeting will be like a fishing expedition for your attorney and tedious and confusing for you. Here are some tips on how to get yourself organized and prepared for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney:
- Make a complete list of your assets and liabilities. Preparing a list of your assets and liabilities prior to your first meeting with an estate planning attorney will force you to locate account statements, life insurance policies and deeds, and will help your attorney determine if your heirs will have any estate tax and/or liquidity problems. You can use the Chart for Calculating Net Worth to create an asset and liability list.
- Decide who will inherit your estate, when they'll inherit it, and how they'll inherit it. Deciding who you want to inherit your assets is one of the major decisions you will need to make with regard to your estate plan, so if you have no idea who you want to be your beneficiaries, then there's really no point in meeting with an estate planning attorney. And once you decide who, you'll have to decide how and when. Refer to Options for Paying Minor Beneficiaries Their Inheritance and Options for Paying Adult Beneficiaries Their Inheritance for some ideas.
- Figure out who you want to be in charge of you and your property. Deciding who you want to serve as your fiduciaries - Personal Representative/Executor, Guardian/Conservator, Successor Trustee, Health Care Agent, Attorney in Fact - is probably the most important part of putting your estate plan together. Why? Because if someone declines to serve or for legal or other reasons simply can't serve, then your estate plan will come to a grinding halt and possibly land your loved ones in court. Refer to How to Choose Fiduciaries for Your Estate Plan to help you decide on the right people or institutions for the job.