In my last article, we discussed why estate planning is essential and what it involves. Now, it’s time to get started and assemble your estate planning team. This will include selecting an estate planning attorney who will work with your financial advisor to ensure your wishes are carried out as intended.
Select an Estate Planning Attorney
To find a qualified or vetted estate planning attorney in your area, start by speaking with your friends and colleagues about professionals they have had positive experiences. Or, consider asking your financial advisor for recommendations of attorneys they have successfully worked with in the past.
Before hiring, review each attorney’s qualifications and make sure that estate planning is their specialty. You want to work with someone who knows wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents daily to ensure you get the most qualified professional to handle your future. And, of course, make sure you understand and are comfortable with the attorney’s fee schedule, so you don’t overextend your budget and end up with an incomplete estate plan.
What You Need For The First Meeting
Before you meet with your estate planning attorney, you’ll want to gather the following documents to bring with you:
- Names and birth dates of family members and beneficiaries.
- List of concerns you have regarding beneficiary designations.
- A list of assets, liabilities, debts, and life insurance policies.
- Any current wills, medical directives, power of attorneys, or other copies of other estate planning documents you may already have in place.
- Business agreements.
- Location of your safety deposit box and keys.
- Divorce decrees.
Preparing Your Family & Revisiting Your Estate Plan Over Time
After establishing your estate plan, there are still some things to take care of. These include preparing your family for the future and revisiting your plans as life changes occur.
Preparing Your Beneficiaries
It’s important to begin preparing your beneficiaries for the future by discussing with them what will happen once you pass away. This will include their role (if any) in settling the estate and what they should expect to inherit from your assets (optional). If you expect certain children to handle specific tasks, be explicit and discuss how things will transpire once you pass.
Additionally, if your beneficiaries don’t have much experience with or knowledge about investing, begin educating them now (ideally with the help of your advisor). The more you can teach them ahead of time, the better prepared they will be to handle the inheritance they receive.
Ongoing Maintenance and Updating
Estate plans can be changed. They should be revisited every year (or at least once every few years) to consider any changes that should be made. Major life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of new children or grandchildren, new business endeavors, career changes, and retirement are common catalysts for estate plan updates.
We all want what’s best for our families. Preparing them early can help make for a more seamless transition, easing their burden during a time of grief.