Q: How should we prepare to meet with the estate planning attorney? What should we take with us?
A: When meeting with the attorney, it’s a good idea to be prepared. How you should prepare will depend upon your circumstances. However, there are a couple of things that will likely come up and you should be prepared for them.
Start with what you want to accomplish. It can be something really specific like I want to set up a trust for my grandchildren’s education or it can be something general like I want to get my property to my wife and then my kids. Just having a general goal in mind will be a good starting point for your estate planning.
Once you have a general goal in mind, think about any unusual circumstances. Do you have any loved ones with disabilities that you need to plan for or perhaps someone that you want to make sure is not included in your estate plan? Do you have any loved ones with addiction issues or legal entanglements? Be prepared to talk about any unusual circumstances that could impact your estate planning needs. I know that a lot of these things are extremely personal and it’s never easy to trust a stranger with your secrets. However, remember that your attorney in ethically obligated to keep your confidences. Also, the more information that your attorney has, the more likely they will be able to help you obtain your goals.
Think about who should get your stuff and what should happen if they predecease you. If your estate plan says leave everything to my spouse and then my kids; what happens if one of your children predecease you? Should that share go to your grandchildren or perhaps the surviving children? Although unlikely, it’s a good idea to think about those circumstances in advance.
You should also have in mind who you want to be involved in your estate. Who do you want to serve as personal representative in your will or trustee in your trust? If you have minor children, who do you want to be their guardian? Who should be named attorney-in-fact in your power of attorney? Give it some thought. Don’t just go in and say Billy should be in charge because he’s the oldest.
Finally, if you currently have estate planning documents, bring copies with you to the meeting. The attorney might find it useful to inspect the documents. I know that I like to have them to make sure that I get the spelling of names correct. For some reason, I mess up middle initials all of the time. Having something to compare it to helps me do my job.
Being prepared will make the estate planning process a lot easier. It will certainly save time and probably money. The better prepared you are, the easier the process will be.
Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article will appear every Sunday in The Times. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.