So, you have finally decided it’s time to meet with an estate planning attorney and make sure that your family is protected if something happens to you. You have called an attorney’s office and you have scheduled your initial consultation. What should you do next?

There are two options. (1) You could simply wait for the initial consultation date to arrive and show up to the meeting. (2) The other option is for you to get organized and prepare for the meeting so that you can focus on the questions that you may have and so that your attorney may address any concerns or specific objectives for you and your family.

There are 3 Things to Do Before Meeting With Your Estate Planning Attorney

You should take a few minutes to sort through your important financial and legal papers to have a good idea of what assets you own and their approximate value. Taking the time prior to the meeting will go a long way to making the meeting productive and valuable. Otherwise, your attorney may not be able to give you the concise recommendation that you desire.

The following are 3 easy ways to get organized and prepared for your first meeting:

  1. Make a complete list of your assets and liabilities.

  • List what you own (e.g., bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, and life insurance). Don’t worry, you do not need to make a list of your personal property (e.g., the lamps, rugs, wedding rings, and baseball card collections).
  • Jot down how you own it (e.g., in your sole name or in joint names with your spouse or someone else such as a child or sibling).
  • Indicate whether you have already designated a beneficiary for the account or policy.
  • Record how much you owe (e.g., mortgages, car loans and credit cards).
  1. Consider who you want to inherit your estate, when they’ll inherit it, and how they’ll inherit it.

There are many ways to pass your property to beneficiaries, including outright, in stages (such as after college or after getting married), at specific ages, or over a period of time under the discretion of a third-party.

It’s wise to consider the advice of your attorney, but, at the very least, think about each beneficiary’s current needs and what they may need in the future.

  1. Consider who should manage your affairs if you become incapacitated or die.

Along with naming Guardians for your minor children, deciding who will serve as your fiduciaries (including the Personal Representative of your Will, Successor Trustee of your Trust, Attorney in Fact of your Power of Attorney, and Health Care Agent in your Health Care Directive) is, by far, the most important decision you will need to make.

Why?  Because if you choose the wrong person for the job, or if someone you choose declines to serve or can’t serve, the estate plan that you have so carefully put together may be disrupted or derailed.

If you’re like most people, you’ll need the advice of your attorney to choose the right people or institutions to serve as your fiduciaries but think about who among your family members or friends will be good candidates, and who will not.

It’s a lot to think about and organize, but it will be well worth it.  Coming to your estate planning consultation prepared and organized will allow you to better determine whether the attorney you are meeting with is the right attorney for you. After all, the attorney you select may very well be the one helping your children administer your affairs after you are gone.

 

Zach Wiegand is a Burnsville, Minnesota estate planning attorney and the owner of Gold Leaf Estate Planning, LLC. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is an estate planning law firm that handles probate and trust administration in Minnesota. We serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area with a focus on estate planning for clients in Burnsville, Eagan, Savage, Prior Lake, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Eden Prairie and the South Metro. The firm also handles probate in Dakota County, Washington County, Scott County, Hennepin County, and Ramsey County. Zach was named a Minnesota Super Lawyer – Rising Star for both 2017 & 2018 and he is a member of WealthCounsel – a national organization of estate planning attorneys dedicated to practice excellence. You can contact Zach via e-mail at zach@goldleafestateplanning.com or by calling (952) 658-6503. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is located in Burnsville at 3000 County Road 42 W., Suite 310, Burnsville, MN 55337.

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