If you have finally decided to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to get started on your estate plan, you have made a wise choice. As you undoubtedly realize, a well thought out estate plan can protect you, your assets, and your loved ones throughout the course of your lifetime and beyond. If you have never worked on an estate plan before, however, it can be a little intimidating to think about doing so. You may not be sure what to expect from your initial consultation with your estate planning attorney either. Of course, every attorney has his/her own way of handling an initial consultation; however, there are some things you can do ahead of time that will likely help you prepare for your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer. Being better prepared, in turn, will likely put you more at ease during your consultation, allowing for a more productive meeting.
Decide on Goals
One of the most important things you can do prior to your initial consultation with an estate planning attorney is to decide what your estate planning goals and objectives are, both short term and long term. Keep in mind that a well drafted estate plan should do much more than simply create a roadmap for the distribution of your estate assets when you are gone. As such, your comprehensive estate plan has room for a number of goals and objectives. Some common estate planning goals that you may wish to incorporate into your plan include:
- Incapacity planning
- Asset protection
- Special needs planning
- Business succession planning
- Pet planning
- Parents with minor children planning
- Retirement planning
- Medicaid planning
To create a comprehensive estate plan, you need to know what you own, and what you want to do with it in the event of your incapacity or your death. Of course, your probably have a fairly good idea of what your net worth is; however, you need to create a detailed list of all assets you own, both tangible and intangible. On your list of assets, you need to include identifying information such as account number, locations, log ins, and passwords because these lists can be incorporated directly into your estate plan to save your Executor or a Trustee a considerable amount of time. Along with your list of assets, you need a list of debts and liabilities and a list of beneficiaries to whom you wish to leave something in your plan. If you know what gifts you wish to leave for beneficiaries, create a list of those gifts as well. When it comes to creating an estate plan, you simply cannot have too many lists.
Consider Fiduciary Roles
Throughout your estate plan, you may have a number of fiduciary roles to fill. Thinking about who you wish to appoint to each of these potential roles now will ensure that you have given an appropriate amount of thought to your selection, therefore avoiding one of the most common estate planning mistakes. Far too many people simply appoint a spouse, friend, or family member to fiduciary roles without taking the time needed to contemplate the role. Among the fiduciary roles in your estate plan are:
- Executor – appointed by you in your Last Will and Testament, the Executor in responsible for overseeing the probate of your estate from start to finish.
- Trustee – appointed by you in a trust agreement, the Trustee of a trust has a number of duties and responsibilities, the most important of which are to manage and invest trust assets and administer the trust according to the trust terms you create in the trust agreement.
- Guardian – the only official opportunity you will have as a parent to tell a judge who you would want to be your child’s Guardian is found in your Last Will and Testament.
Hopefully, by doing just a little preparation for your initial consultation with your estate planning attorney you will feel more at ease and will be able to get a head start on creating your comprehensive estate plan.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions about estate planning, contact an experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyer at Augulis Law Firm by calling 908-222-8803 to schedule your appointment today.