As an estate planning attorney people often ask me what they should be doing before we meet to discuss their plan. 4 things come to mind that everyone can do to prepare before discussing estate planning with an attorney. These tips allow for a better and more focused estate planning meeting.
1. Think about what property you own or have an interest in.
I know this sounds simple, but I routinely have meetings where people either don’t know or can’t remember what they own. Is your name on the title to every vehicle in your family? Some of the vehicles? What about that house that your parents gave you and your siblings? Is it a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common? Knowing the answers to these questions will make your meeting smoother and allow you to focus on answers to difficult questions.
2. Collect important paperwork and documents.
Common examples include recent banking and portfolio statements, vehicle titles and deeds. While you may not specifically list your bank account or boat trailer in your will or durable power of attorney, being able to provide that information quickly will generally help the estate planning process. Titles to your vehicles will also allow your attorney to verify exactly who owns them and if there are any beneficiaries listed on them. If you live in Jackson County, deeds to real property can be discovered online through the recorder of deeds. So if you live in Independence, Lee’s Summit or most of Kansas City, your estate planning attorney should be able to locate all recorded beneficiary deeds, warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds and other conveyances for your estate plan.
3. Think about who you would like to be in charge.
Whether you believe your estate planning needs to be simple or complex, a will, trust, springing or non-springing durable power of attorney and healthcare directive all have specific and important roles that you need to fill by appointing people in your life that you trust. I tell people to think about what would happen if you were in a fatal or catastrophic car collision yesterday. Who would you want to take care of your day to day needs and responsibilities? Who would you trust to take care of your children? We know the people that are important to us, but thinking about specific people to be in charge of certain things before you meet with your estate planning attorney will keep you focused and moving in the right direction.
4. Think about who you want to give your property to.
With the aid of a wide variety of non probate estate planning tools including a trust, deed of gift or beneficiary deed, you can leave any type of property to any number of beneficiaries over various periods of time. The sky is the limit and your intentions and wishes are important to me. How can your estate plan provide you peace of mind if I don’t explain and go over all of your options with you? If you come into my office with an idea of your intended beneficiaries it will make the meeting much easier and allow both of us to focus on the important questions.
Taking these 4 steps before meeting with me or any other estate planning attorney will benefit you in a number of ways. You’ll feel more confident in knowing what you want and can better direct your estate planning attorney. You’ll think of helpful questions to ask about your estate plan that you might not have otherwise. And if nothing else, you’ll have collected important documents for safekeeping in a centralized location.
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