When you schedule your first meeting with an estate planning attorney, you may not know how to prepare. You can take a few steps prior to the meeting that will help you get the most out of your time with the lawyer.
Assess What You Own
It is very helpful to go into your meeting with the lawyer holding a list of all the assets you own and their approximate value. The list gives the lawyer an idea of the estate planning structures that you may need, as well as the legal issues that could come up in the future.
Your list should include all cash, real estate, personal property (jewelry, valuable collectibles), vehicles, securities accounts, insurance, and retirement accounts that you own. Estimate each asset’s value if you can. If you have children, a spouse, or other relatives who could be affected by your estate plan, include information about them too. For example, your attorney will want to know if any of your relatives are not United States citizens (this can change a possible estate plan).
Think About Your Goals
What do you hope to achieve by making an estate plan? Maybe you want to protect your children in case you have a sudden medical crisis or pass away unexpectedly. Maybe you want your spouse to be financially secure in the future. Or you might want to give to charity, help out a financially insecure relative, or just make sure your wishes are carried out.
Tell the lawyer about your goals and wishes in the meeting, so that he or she can advise how an estate plan can help you achieve them. For example, you could protect your children with special gifts to them in your will, a guardian designation, and college savings plans.
Be Realistic About Your Limitations
Finally, temper your expectations going into the meeting with the attorney. If you do not have many assets on hand, the attorney might recommend against creating a trust (since administration costs can be high). Or you might expect that you will be able to set up your estate in a certain way but find out it won’t work.
Your lawyer should explain the different parts of the estate plan that he or she recommends and how they work together. Make sure you understand the plan before you start signing documents. If you understand the plan and continue to update it as time goes on, you can feel more secure about the future.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.