Estate planning can be a stressful and emotionally draining process. But taking the time to develop a plan ensures that those you care about won’t have to suffer through unnecessary legal hardships on your behalf. To relieve some of your stress, we’ve put through this guide to educate you on how to prepare for an estate planning meeting.
The 4 Important Factors of Estate Planning
Estate planning can be broken down into four general components. Let’s take a few moments to understand these components and how you can prepare to discuss them in your estate planning meeting.
Last will and testament
Your last will and testament is a legal document describing how your assets should be distributed after your passing. Without a will, your assets will likely be subject to the probate process. During this process, the state will refer to applicable state laws to determine how your assets will be distributed.
To prepare for discussions of your last will and testament in an estate planning meeting, collect and organize all of your financial records. These records should include:
- Deeds to real estate and/or mortgage contracts
- Your most recent financial statements for all bank accounts and investment accounts
- Stock certificates
- Documentation for intellectual property such as copyrights, patents, and trademarks
- Business interests such as buy/sell agreements and property/equipment leases
- Life insurance policies
- A list of valuable belongs such as jewelry or pieces of art
- Any existing estate plan documents
Organizing all of your financial records will make it much easier to determine how to allocate your assets to your loved ones. Making these decisions can be difficult, so you may want to discuss them with those you care about most.
Placing some or all of your assets into a trust grants you greater control over how and when your heirs can use them. For example, if you plan to leave funds to a younger relative, you may want to postpone their access to the funds until they’ve reached a certain age. Alternatively, the trust could dictate that the assets only be used for educational purposes.
Having already gathered your financial records, you can prepare for a discussion about trusts by considering how you’d like your heirs to benefit from their inheritance. If you’re confident in your heirs’ fiscal responsibility, a trust may not be necessary at all.
Living Wills & Health Care Power of Attorney
Your living will describe the medical care you wish to receive in cases where you are unable to make your opinion known. It typically includes detailed instructions about whether or not you wish to undergo various life-saving treatments and other factors such as organ donation. Some of the common life-saving treatments addressed include CPR, ventilation, and tube feeding.
To prepare for an estate planning meeting, consider which live-saving measure your comfortable receiving and which you would prefer to avoid. Some people would prefer to take all possible measures, while others take the opposite stance. You may want to research the various procedures and discuss the matter with loved ones, but the choice will ultimately be yours to make.
You will also need to consider the individual whom you wish to grant health care power of attorney. This person will have the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. You should discuss this matter with the person you wish to elect as this can be a big responsibility with which many people may be uncomfortable.
Financial Power of Attorney
Granting an individual financial power of attorney allows them to make monetary decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. This includes everything from medical bills to mortgage payments. Spouses and family members are common choices for this role. But you should think hard about who you can trust to act in your best interest in this capacity.
The estate planning attorneys at Koch & Associates have extensive experience in helping clients prepare for their initial meetings. If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to schedule a consultation, please reach out to us at 708-656-9900.