What to bring to the Estate Planning Meeting

Meeting with an estate planning attorney is often a stressful event. You know you are headed to a meeting where someone will ask you what you want to happen when you die. Where do you want to be buried? Do you want to be cremated? Who takes care of your kids if you are dead? And many more equally unpleasant questions. To make that part easier, try and bring the information you can, and think about some of these issues before you head off to your meeting:

As you get ready for your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer, you should plan to bring certain documents and information with you. This information will help your attorney develop an estate plan suitable to your specific situation and goals. This list is only meant to be a guide, and there may be additional information your attorney will request.

Estate Planning Questionnaire

Our estate planning questionnaire deals with asking most of these questions in detail. It is split into three sections, biographical, financial and planning. While you never have to finish the questionnaire before the meeting, the more you can think about, the better. If your attorney does not furnish a questionnaire (and he or she should), these are the kinds of information and questions you need to be prepared with:

Family Information, including full names, nicknames, ages, and contact information for your spouse, former spouse(s) or partner(s), children (whether included in your plan or not), stepchildren and grandchildren. Where parents, siblings, nieces/nephews, cousins and others will be involved in your estate plan as possible beneficiaries, fiduciaries, guardians or otherwise, their information is needed as well.

Financial Information for Non-Retirement Assets, including bank accounts, investment accounts (annuities, mutual funds), stocks, bonds and U.S. treasury notes. While it is nice to bring account names, numbers, balances and current statements, the attorney is more interested in the titling (sole, joint, tenants-in-common) and order of magnitude of the assets then the exact balances and account numbers.

Retirement Savings Information, including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, IRAs, Roths, TSPs, inherited retirement savings and any pension information. Here we are looking for the type of asset, the institution or employer where it is held, and any beneficiary information. Again, exact numbers are not required.

Life Insurance Information, including the type of policy (term, whole, VUL, Group, etc.), the ownership, the company providing the insurance and beneficiary information. Here, the exact death benefit should be available and brought.

Real Property (Real Estate) Information, including property address, ownership interest (sole, joint, tenants-in-common), market value, and outstanding mortgage balance, for your primary residence, rental properties, vacation homes, and personally held business or investment property.

Tangible Personal Property (Also Called Personalty, Stuff and “Crap”), including antiques, collectibles, automobiles, jewelry, art, and other things that either have value intrinsically, or to you or your family. Remember that the furniture you bought at Macy’s is worth 10{93997c19cca2413204031df21c26e128a46aabe0f65d6d1b886d87d0d40a7681} of what you paid for it 2 years ago. It is the liquidation value, not replacement value, that drives taxes.

Information Regarding Inheritance, including current or anticipated inheritance, and any current or future interest you may have in a Trust.

Business Information, including any business interest that you may have, the location of the business, and the type of business (i.e. closely-held business, family business, limited partnership, etc.).

Other Things to Consider:

  • Who would you like to receive your property?
  • Is there anyone you would not want to receive your property?
  • Do you want to leave anything to a charity, university, church or other organization?
  • Who would you like to serve as executor of your will?
  • Who would you like to serve as trustee over any trusts?
  • Would you like to appoint a guardian to care for any minor children?
  • Do you want to create a living will and a durable health care power of attorney?
  • Do you want to assign other powers of attorney, such as for your finances?
  • Do you want to leave instructions for your funeral arrangements?
  • Do you want to donate your organs or donate your body to science?
  • Who would you like to serve as alternate executor, trustee, guardian or power of attorney if your first choice is unavailable or unable to fulfill the duties?

Finally, consider your overall goals and desires for your estate plan. This will help guide your estate planning attorney in developing a comprehensive plan tailored to meet your individual needs.