Have you decided to team up with an estate planning specialist to start preparing for the future? It’s not always easy to discuss end-of-life topics, but it’s wise to take steps now that will ensure your family is taken care of when you’re gone. Here’s how to prepare for your first estate planning meeting.
Complete the Intake Questionnaire
When you schedule your initial meeting, your estate planning specialist may send you a questionnaire for you to fill out information about your family and finances prior to the meeting. This ensures the time you spend with your estate planning specialist is focused on preparing your documents, not filling out names, addresses, and account numbers.
Gather Your Documents
Although it isn’t critical to bring all your asset documents to the first appointment, you can move your estate plan along faster if you provide the following from the start:
- Real estate deeds: For asset transfers to be valid, you must retitle your cars, boats, airplanes, and real property to you as the trustee. Bring your deeds to the meeting so your attorney has the information necessary to make the transfers.
- Financial statements: Bring the first page of your most recent bank and investment account statements indicating the account owner, account numbers, and balances.
- Business agreements: If you own a company or have an interest in a partnership, your attorney will need to see your business leases and buy-sell agreements.
- Trademark, copyright, and patent registration certificates: It’s wise to assign your intellectual property to a trust. Your attorney will need these certificates to complete the process.
- Stock and bond certificates: Bring these to your estate planning meeting so your attorney can transfer them to your trust.
- Life insurance policy information: Present a copy of your insurance binder—a one-page document listing the policy owner, policy number, and death benefit—to your attorney at your first meeting.
- Any existing estate plan documents: Do you already have a will, trust, durable power of attorney, or advance healthcare directive? If so, show it to your attorney so you can review its provisions and follow the necessary guidelines before making amendments.
- Divorce papers and prenuptial agreements: It’s vital for your estate plan to comply with these contracts. Bring them with you so your attorney can consider your contractual obligations when drafting your will.
Consider Your Executors, Agents, Trustees & Guardians
An important part of estate planning is deciding who you want to act on your behalf when the time comes. Here are some of the roles you may need to designate:
- Patient advocates make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated, following the instructions in your living will.
- Personal Representatives, also known as executors, manage your estate and carry out your last will and testament if you become incapacitated or pass away.
- Agents have the authority to make decisions regarding your property, finances, or legal affairs as if they were you under a power of attorney (POA).
- Trustees are the people in charge of your trust account after you pass away. They manage and distribute assets based on the terms in the trust agreement.
- Guardians are people you trust to raise your kids and take care of your pets if you pass away.
Think about these decisions carefully and discuss your thoughts with the people you’re considering for each role before your first estate planning meeting. If you have trouble finding appropriate people, tell your attorney. He or she may be able to provide contact information for local fiduciaries who can fill these roles.
Decide How to Distribute Your Assets
This critical aspect of estate planning ensures the right assets go to the right people after your death. If you don’t name beneficiaries, your assets could go through probate court, a lengthy and expensive process that needlessly eats into your loved ones’ inheritances. Select your beneficiaries carefully, and rest assured that you can update this information as your life changes.
Be aware that minor children are usually required to wait until they’re at least 18 years old to receive assets from an estate plan. If you want your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance while still in their teens, you may need to create a trust that a responsible adult manages on their behalf. You can also structure a trust so the beneficiary can only use the money for certain expenses, such as college tuition and housing.
You may also like the idea of leaving your mark on a local charity, whether you have children or not. If this interests you, come to your estate planning meeting with a list of charities you would like to support when you’re gone.
Find a Qualified Estate Planning Lawyer
Your estate plan impacts the end-of-life decisions others make for you, as well as the financial well-being of your family when you’re no longer here. That’s why you want an experienced, knowledgeable estate planning lawyer by your side. After all, estate planning is complex, with numerous vehicles available to manage your assets and reduce your tax liability. The best estate planning specialists can create a plan that caters to your unique needs.
As experts in advanced estate and tax planning, Generational Strategies Group has you covered. We have over 30 years of experience assisting affluent clients in Naples and Fort Myers, FL with their estate plans. Work with us, and we’ll help you preserve, protect, and perpetuate a lifetime of hard work onto the people you care about most. Call us today at (239) 352-4111 to schedule your first estate planning meeting.