Best Laid Plans…
When setting up a will and other estate planning documents, many clients are concerned about making the most efficient use of their attorney’s time. One of the best things to do to maximize your attorney’s time is to be prepared.
The more thought you put into certain goals and wishes (including those below), the easier it is for your attorney to create documents that reflect your intentions. However, no matter how well-prepared you are, these meetings will raise some questions you didn’t think of.
Common things to consider ahead of your meeting
Executor: Who do you want to serve as your executor or personal representative charged with settling your estate?
Healthcare proxy: If you become incapacitated, who do you trust to make medical decisions for you?
Financial power of attorney: Similar to the healthcare proxy, this person acts as your financial agent if you become incapacitated.
Guardian for your minor children: Do you have children? Or, are you planning to have them? If so, it’s a good idea to name a guardian (and a backup). Additionally, who will manage any inheritance you leave the child(ren)?
Personal belongings: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Make a detailed list of your possessions as well as who will get what (e.g., heirlooms, cars, jewelry, artwork). While you may not think it, many families do, unfortunately, squabble over record collections, gun collections, artwork and more. Don’t let this happen.
Distributions to young beneficiaries: Consider when beneficiaries will receive their share of your estate. Do you want young children to receive their share before they’re 18 or when they turn 18? Depending on the asset in question (large amounts of money) perhaps assigning a trustee who provides specified access to the funds until the child reaches a specified age is better.
Equalization: If you provided a substantial gift to a child in your lifetime (e.g., you helped them through college or paid for a wedding) that you have not yet provided to other children, do you want to provide an equalization mechanism as part of their inheritance distributions? Similarly, if your adult children have very different financial situations, will that impact how you want your assets distributed?
Distributions to adult beneficiaries: Do you have adult heirs who might benefit from having their share protected in case of divorce or creditor claims? Tell your attorney if any of your beneficiaries have special needs, legal or credit problems, suffer from addiction, or seem likely to divorce in the future.
Charitable bequests: Do you wish to provide gifts to any nonprofits as part of your estate?
Don’t stress it
Setting up a will and estate planning can be stressful. These are big questions and you may not have all the answers right away. But don’t let that be a reason to to stress, and don’t let that be a reason to put off scheduling an appointment. A good estate planning attorney will provide suggestions and help you think through all of your available options.
Here’s a link to the Maryland Court’s Life Planning & Power of Attorney section. You will find an in-depth detail of some of the things we discussed as well as the forms.
As always, you should consult an attorney to make sure everything you wish to happen with your estate, does. Because when you’re gone you’re not going to be able to clear up any misunderstandings…
Need a good estate planning lawyer? Reach out to us and we’ll be happy to put you in touch with someone.