Preparing for Your Initial Estate Planning Consultation
You should receive a Welcome Kit from our office prior to your initial consultation. Included in this Kit is a short questionnaire designed to help focus your thoughts on the planning process, and to help us gather important facts. Please take the time to review these documents. If at all possible, we would like to review your completed questionnaire two days prior to the meeting. If this is not possible, please bring it with you to your appointment.
In the case of a married couple, it is important to schedule an appointment at a time when both of you are available to meet.
If you need to reschedule your appointment, please contact us immediately so that we may rearrange our schedule and perhaps make an appointment more convenient for another of our clients.
While it would be helpful, there is no need to go on a "treasure hunt" at this point for financial or legal documents, stock certificates or insurance policies. Sometimes we find clients procrastinate in getting their planning done because they cannot locate, or do not have time to locate, all of these documents. Truthfully, these documents will not be needed until we begin the funding process ... which is one of the last steps in the process! Instead, spend the time before your appointment contemplating the Three P's of Estate Planning (see below).
Understanding the Three P's of Estate Planning
#1 -- People
Who are the Important People in your life?
Beginning with yourself, they also likely include your loved ones: your spouse if you are married, children and grandchildren if you have any, perhaps your parents, siblings or other relatives. Beyond these, however, "Important People" also could include charities, special causes, colleges or universities, or churches to which you are committed. For some, "Important People" could even include pets. Spend some time thinking about the impact others have had on your life. Make a list and jot notes if you like. This is where the planning process truly begins.
#2 -- Property
By Property we mean your assets in general.
Make a list of the assets you own or control. At this point, you do not need to identify insurance policy numbers and exact dollar values. Rather think through your assets in terms of their nature cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.); their value in thousands of dollars; and your ownership interest. Do you own assets in your name only, in joint tenancy with someone else, or through a trust agreement or some other arrangement? Be sure to include often-overlooked assets like life insurance the death benefit, not the cash value), business interests, and any inheritance you may expect to receive.
#3 -- Plans
After identifying the Important People in your life and your Property, the next step is to consider the plans you would make for those people (including yourself) and that Property in the event of your own incapacity or death.
Who would you name to make decisions for you if you could no longer do so yourself? Would the same person handle your finances and your personal and health care decisions? Who would care for your minor children? How would you distribute your assets to your heirs? Would you prefer to spare your heirs the cost and hassles of the probate process? Would you like to minimize the impact of estate taxes ... or maximize the impact of a charitable bequest? Is there someone in your family with special needs for whom you would like to provide? Is there someone who perhaps should not receive a great deal of money without some outside oversight?
These are just a few of the issues to consider when approaching the planning process. They are much more important than the "treasure hunt" for legal documents at this stage.