If you are thinking about putting together an estate plan, it is important to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area of law. Your initial meeting with an estate planning attorney is a good opportunity to discuss your family's financial situation as well as your concerns and goals. If you are able to prepare ahead of time for this meeting, there are several items you should bring with you to benefit the most from the consultation.
Helpful Information to Bring With You
Before meeting with the attorney, consider writing down your goals and wishes for your estate plan - or the concerns or worries that prompted you to make the appointment. You may want to jot down specific information you want the attorney to know about your family dynamics, such as beneficiaries or family members you want to include or about or the fact you have a blended family. This information is critical to ensure the attorney understands who is a part of your family, who you want to benefit and protect through your estate plan, and which strategies are best to achieve your goals and unique circumstances.
Beyond this, below is a list of the most important documents you should try to bring to this first meeting:
Documents related to your assets: In an ideal world, you should have an inventory of all your bigger assets — for example, your vehicle(s), home(s), insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. Knowing exactly what assets you own and where they can be found is critical to your estate plan.
Documents related to your liabilities: While this may not be fun, any significant debts you have must also be accounted for to create an estate plan providing the best protection for you and your loved ones. An estate planning attorney may want to use financial tools such as trusts to ensure your assets go to your loved ones and not to creditors to pay off debt.
Contact information of other advisors: Whether you use the services of a financial advisor, an accountant or CPA, or an insurance agent, be sure to bring in their contact information so that the estate planning attorney has a point of contact for each aspect of your estate plan. Estate planning is a collaborative effort, with each advisor holding a piece of your financial puzzle. By providing the contact information, it will be easier for all of your trusted advisors to work together to carry out your ultimate goals.
Prepare a list of questions: Having a list of questions and concerns can keep you on track with the discussion and ensure that you get the answers you need as you go through the estate planning process.
Please note, if the attorney has sent you forms to complete before your scheduled appointment, make sure to complete them. Depending upon the attorney's process, these forms or questionnaires may need to be returned to the attorney prior to the scheduled meeting date. Completing these documents will help the attorney better assess your estate planning needs, make the best use of the appointment time, and help you begin to think more deeply about your estate plan.
Meet Even If You Are Unprepared
Sometimes the biggest hurdle is simply making the initial appointment with an estate planning attorney. While being prepared for an initial meeting is ideal, it is not absolutely necessary. In fact, all of this information can be obtained after retaining your estate planning attorney. Preparing ahead of time, however, will give you and your attorney a head start in putting together a solid estate plan as soon as possible. While it is the attorney's job to develop the strategy for your estate plan, it is to your advantage to identify your goals and consider the legacy you wish to leave.
If you are ready to take the next step in your estate planning journey, give us a call. Even if you don't have all of the answers or know the right questions to ask, we are here to guide you through the process and ensure your goals are carried out.