Many of my prospective clients ask me what they need to do or bring before their estate planning consultation. While it’s certainly acceptable to simply walk into an attorney’s office without any advance preparation (for me anyway; I can’t speak for other attorneys), it can be very helpful to think about the following:
- Determine your financial worth. The first step in the estate planning process is to determine the overall value of your estate (i.e. everything you own in your name). Your net worth is a huge factor in deciding what documents you need. If all you have is an old car and a few hundred dollars in the bank, you probably don’t need a trust. If you’re a billionaire, you probably need multiple trusts. For the purposes of estate planning, a general idea is usually sufficient for an attorney to figure out what documents you need. It saves time to figure out your financial worth before meeting with your attorney. However, you can bring your financial documents with you and figure this out during the meeting.
- Figure out your family’s needs. Once you know your net worth, you should think about your family’s situation and what specific issues would need to be addressed if something happened to you. If you have young children, you should think about who would raise them. If you have a spouse who doesn’t earn a paycheck, you should make sure there’s enough money to take care of them until they figure out their next step. If you own a business, you should think about what would happen to the business after you’re gone. An attorney can help you figure these things out, but it’s a good idea to at least know before you arrive what issues need to be addressed.
- Decide who will be in charge. This is often the most difficult decision for clients, and it’s one that the attorney can’t really help you with. For the sake of speeding up the process, you should have an idea of who you want to name before you see an attorney. This should be someone you can trust to carry out your wishes, and for the financial documents, it should also be someone good at managing money. If there is no one you can trust, the attorney will likely have professionals they can refer for this task.
Thinking about these three things will make the consultation go more smoothly, and it will speed up the process of determining how to shape the plan to meet your needs. If you have questions about the above or would like to schedule a consultation, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.