The Planning Process
Estate planning usually begins with a meeting. In confidence, you and your attorney will discuss your estate-planning goals and review your assets. Thoroughness is essential. For example, your attorney will need to know the extent and nature of your assets (e.g., whether they are liquid, such as cash, or non-liquid, such as real estate), how your property is titled (e.g., whether jointly or separately), and who your beneficiaries are for assets like life insurance and retirement plans.
The initial meeting with the attorney is your opportunity to sort out matters like the following:
- Who will settle your estate?
- Who will serve as guardians to any minor children?
- Should a trust be established to manage assets going to a minor child or someone with special needs?
- What can be done to reduce estate taxes?
- If your estate plan includes one or more trusts, who should serve as trustees?
- Would you like to leave money to a charity or perhaps your alma mater?
- Is there anyone you wish to disinherit?
- Would you like to make provisions for your pets to be cared for?
Your attorney will then develop an estate plan tailored to your specific needs and wishes. You will receive carefully drafted documents for your review. After any outstanding questions are resolved, you will be ready to schedule your second meeting to execute the documents.
One of your attorney’s primary goals should be to ensure that you understand your estate plan and what it will mean for your beneficiaries. Asking questions and being comfortable with your arrangements is an essential part of the process.