Preparing to Work with an Estate Planning Attorney

Last week we discussed the top five questions you should ask an estate planning attorney before engaging his services. This week we’ll take a look at the top five questions to ask yourself to effectively pursue estate planning:

  1. What issues are most important for me to address in my planning?
    Typically, some event has occurred that spurs action to begin estate planning. Perhaps it was the experience of a loved one leaving without a plan (or with an inadequate plan), or maybe the birth of a child or grandchild. Whatever the reasons, the person seeking out assistance should have some goal in mind. Of course as you learn more about estate planning your goals often expand. Your estate planning attorney should be able to identify issues that are important to you that can be addressed though estate planning, and then help you develop your goals with those issues in mind.
  2. Who will fulfill the necessary “helper” roles?
    You’ll need an idea of which of your people will fill the various roles in your estate plan. These role role players will take part should you become disabled and after you are gone. For many, (especially those with minor children) this question is the largest hurdle to begin estate planning. However, your estate planning attorney should help you identify ideal candidates for the various roles, and then prepare your helpers to be ready to fill that role when the time comes.
  3. Do I have a current inventory of assets?
    When it comes time to distribute your property according to your wishes, all too often loved ones are left to hunt for the assets. The best estate plans not only initially identify your assets, but track your assets as they change throughout your life. And most importantly, your assets must be properly titled for your estate plan to be effective. You cannot assure your estate plan will work if your assets are not identified and titled properly.
  4. What advisors can I involve in the planning process to more effectively design and implement my plan?
    If your estate plan is a car, your financial adviser provides the fuel, and your CPA the oil. You need all three to get from A to B. If you have trusted advisers, we want to work with them in creating a plan that works.
  5. Am I willing to meet the commitments asked of me?
    The best estate planning attorneys believe in plans that work. But even the best cannot make a plan work without your involvement. Your estate planning attorney should work tirelessly to build the right plan, so it should come as no surprise if she asks for commitments from you. Are you willing to take the steps necessary to make your plan work?