Preparing For Your First Estate Planning Consultation
Hiring an attorney for estate planning is serious business. This attorney will be assisting you in many critical decisions, potentially such as guardianship of children, who will be making medical and financial decisions should you become unable to, and how assets should be distributed after your death. Most law offices offer initial consultations to discuss your estate with you. Preparing for your first estate planning consultation can actually take more time than you may have expected. The more prepared you are for this meeting, the clearer the attorney can be on your circumstances, be able to offer you an estimate on the cost of services, and begin laying the groundwork for your estate planning. The following is a list of things to bring or questions to be prepared to answer at your consultation.
Your attorney will need to know your exact family circumstances. This means being completely honest about any estranged family members or children, previous marriages, etc. This includes any prenuptial agreements you may have entered into. Not being truthful may mean bitter court battles for your loved ones after you are deceased. Be sure to be entirely candid with your attorney.
Documents: Assets and Financial Statements
All assets should be listed and any paperwork regarding those assets should be brought. Also, if you are married, it is important to note whether the asset is held jointly or singly. Statements of net worth and any financial statements should also be brought. Other documents may include insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. This will give your lawyer a picture of the estate and all of the property and accounts related to it, allowing them to get a rough initial estimate of what the estate is worth.
If you have substantial debts, now is the time to let your lawyer know about them and bring any statements related to them. This can be important in terms of the creation of trusts to protect the inheritance of your loved ones. This is not the time to be embarrassed about your financial situation, but to be detailed about any debts that may be owed.
You should also prepare a list of the main questions you would like answered. This may include questions regarding the practice, such as questioning the attorney on their experience with estate planning and what would happen to your estate if the practice closed, and how you will be billed for their services. Other important questions may include inquiries about gifting, how taxes may impact your estate, creating a trust, etc.
Overall, the more you prepare for your initial estate planning consultation, the more your attorney is going to be able to help you. Estate planning is serious and can protect your loved ones from long court proceedings later on. It also ensures that your wishes are honored. Be sure to be honest and not to omit anything so that your attorney can give you the best advisement possible.