WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?
Estate planning involves learning about your personal situation: your family, relatives, assets, objectives, health issues, any prior estate planning you may have done, followed by a discussion of the types of plans and documents that can be created in a customized manner to fit your unique circumstances. We do not dispense bulk, one-size-fits-all estate plans. Custom tools we can use include wills, trusts of various types, advance health care directives, durable powers of attorney for financial management, and asset protection plans. Your personal situation and the options we can offer you will all be discussed at the first conference, along with any additional information we will need and the costs of our services.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN ESTATE PLANNING CONFERENCE
When you have scheduled an appointment to come in and confer regarding the preparation of a will and perhaps a trust for you or for you and your spouse or domestic partner, there is certain information that will be requested by the attorney. Some of that information will be used for file purposes only, or to assist your executor or trustee in administering your estate if the need arises, and will not go into your will or trust. If a decision is made to also undertake asset protection planning, some additional information may be required.
Background Information We Request
Your full name, birth date and place of birth
Any other names you use or have used in the past
If married, the date of your marriage, where you were married, and the name of your spouse
Former marriages you may have had, including names of former spouses, how the marriage ended, e.g. death or divorce, and when the marriage ended.
Names and birth dates of your children
Names and locations of any living parents
Names and locations of your siblings
Name, address and phone number of your accountant
Information Relevant to Drafting Your Will and Determining Whether You Should Have a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust
Copies of deeds to real property, statements from brokerage accounts, and any other documentation showing how you hold title to your significant assets
We will discuss the concepts of separate property and community property in order to determine to what extent you have either or both.
If you have minor children, think about who you might want to have act as guardian, or guardians, in the event of the death of both parents. Consider a backup guardian, or guardians, in case your first choice is unavailable or unable to act at the time of your death.
We will discuss the role of the executor named in your will, and who you will want to designate to fill that position. You should also come up with at least one alternate, or successor in the event your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.
Consider any specific gifts of real property or personal property you may wish to leave to one or more named persons. These may include jewelry, collections, antiques, art, family heirlooms, boats, motor vehicles, etc. Consider an alternate disposition of the person you have named, predeceases you. Consider whether you want to leave any specific sums of money to any named persons, colleges, churches or charities.
Consider how you want to leave the residue of your estate (everything left after the specific gifts mentioned in the preceding paragraph). We will discuss the various alternate ways in which the residue of your estate can be disposed of if one of the people you have named dies before you do.
There are various other matters we will discuss at your will conference, but if you have given some thought to the items mentioned above, and have available the requested information, the conference will be more productive.
It is helpful if you can bring in copies of any deeds by which you took title to the real estate you own, so that we can determine exactly how title is presently held, and so that we will have the legal descriptions of such properties. Don=t worry, however, if you can=t locate the deeds, since we can order copies from a title company. It is also helpful if you can bring in a copy of your most recent statements relating to stock brokerage accounts, savings accounts, including cd.=s, etc., so that we can confirm how title is held to those accounts, as well.
You need to think about who should act as trustee, or co-trustees, of your trust. Usually the client is the initial trustee, but you will need to select one or more successor trustees to act in the event of your incapacity or death. We will discuss this further, including alternatives, when you come in. If you have minor children, we will discuss who you may want to designate as their guardian in the event of the death of you, or you and your spouse, if you are married. We will also discuss the age, or ages, at which the trust will distribute to your children following your death. We will also discuss any specific gifts or real estate or tangible personal property you may wish to make upon your death, to any other persons.
Don't be concerned if any of these concepts seem confusing or if you don't have all of this information at the time of your first visit. Part of the purpose of that visit is to explain the concepts and issues we will be working with, and you can always fax, e-mail or phone in additional information later, or schedule a follow-up appointment.