OK, great! The first step is always the hardest, but you’ve finally decided it’s time to meet with an estate planning attorney and get your affairs in order. It’s time to make sure your family is protected. Now that you’ve scheduled your initial meeting, what’s the next step? You can do one of two things: (1) Simply waiting for the meeting date to arrive, or (2) Getting organized and prepared for the first meeting.
Before You Meet With Your Attorney: 3 Things
Taking the time to sort through your important papers and get your thoughts in order will go a long way to making the initial meeting productive and valuable. Otherwise, the initial meeting will become a fishing expedition for your attorney and both tedious and confusing for you. Here are 3 ways to get yourself organized and prepared for your initial meeting:
1) Make a complete list of your assets and liabilities.
- Fill out any worksheets your attorney may send you either ahead of time
- List what you own (e.g., bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, and life insurance). Fortunately, you do not need to make a list of your personal property.
- Jot down how you own it (e.g., in your sole name or in joint names with your spouse or someone else such as a child or sibling).
- Indicate whether you have already designated a beneficiary for the account or policy.
- Record how much you owe (e.g., mortgages, car loans and credit cards).
2) Think about who you want to inherit your estate, when they’ll inherit it, and how they’ll inherit it.
- There are many ways to pass your property to beneficiaries, including outright, in stages (such as after college or after getting married), at specific ages, or in lifetime discretionary trusts.
- It’s wise to consider the advice of your attorney, but, at the very least, think about each beneficiary’s current needs and what they may need in the future.
3) Think about who you want to be in charge if you become incapacitated or die.
Along with naming Guardians for your minor children, deciding will serve as your decision-makers (including the Executor of your Will, Successor Trustee of your Trust, your Agent under your Financial Power of Attorney, and your Medical Power of Attorney) is, by far, the most important decision you will need to make.
Why? Because if you choose the wrong person for the job, or if someone you choose declines to serve or can’t serve, the estate plan that you have so carefully put together will come to a grinding halt.
Food for Thought
If you’re like most people, you may need the extra time between scheduling the meeting and actual talking with your attorney to consider gather these documents, and think of your questions. Additionally, you may need time to consider the best people for each of the decision-making roles. If you have questions about the responsibility of each decision-maker position involves, be sure to ask your attorney. They can answer questions on choosing the right people or institutions to serve as your fiduciaries.
It’s a lot to think about and to get organized, but it will be well worth it. You got this.
Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.