When you plan to visit an estate planning attorney for help making an estate plan or preparing a will, you should share some key information with him or her. This information could make the difference in preparing a very thorough estate plan or one that does not accomplish your wishes.
Make a List of Your Assets
Before you attend the initial appointment, start by making a list of your assets and their locations. For example, list out all:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts or plans, like 401(k)s, pensions, or IRAs
- Trust income
- Valuable personal property, like art, cars, or jewelry
You should note the physical location of all the assets on your list, as it may matter whether they are in California, another state, or another country. Also, make a note of their approximate value (if you know it).
Think About Your Wishes
As you make your estate plan or before you see the lawyer, consider your wishes. You might start by thinking about all dependents and relatives that you want to protect should you lose your job or pass away unexpectedly. These people could include:
- Children, including stepchildren, foster children, and adopted children
- Brothers and sisters
- Caretakers or nannies
You should note the citizenship and location of each person on your list, as well as any future plans to relocate. Also, tell your lawyer if you plan to relocate or live in more than one state or country.
If you are married, think about how you own property currently and how you owned it just before you married. Your lawyer will want to know which assets you own jointly with your spouse and which you owned before the marriage.
You also should consider if you want your spouse to inherit everything, or if you want to separately provide for your children or other relatives. Think about your relatives’ possible future needs, as well as your own. For example, your family might have a history of needing expensive medical care at the end of their lives. Or one of your children might have special needs for which you should account in your estate plan.
All of these considerations – and more – can help your lawyer make a very personalized estate plan. Be prepared when you arrive for your first appointment.
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.