To maximize the value of your first estate planning consultation, it can help to become familiar with some of the things your attorney may ask you as well as some of the terms they will use that you likely are not familiar with.
Do You Have Children?
One thing that any good estate attorney will ask you is whether or not you have children, and who will raise them if you pass away. If you do have children and fail to name an alternative guardian for them, the court will do it for you based on whom they believe to be in the best interest of the child. That being said, unless you’re confident that a judge that knows neither you nor your children will make a better decision regarding this matter than you will, it’s best to make this decision on your own.
Have You Told Me About All the Relationships In Your Life?
At some point throughout your first consultation, your entire will likely ask you whether or not you’ve disclosed to them all the important relationships in your life. Your lawyer can’t consult you about your rights and recommend a course of action unless they themselves know the full picture of your living situation. It’s not uncommon for people to think they are divorced, yet have never actually gotten around to legally finalizing their separation with divorce papers, a crucial step unless you plan on leaving everything you own to your spouse.
What Happens If You All Die In An Accident?
It’s likely that your attorney will bring up what many would consider the worst case scenario and ask you about what you wish to happen should there be a tragedy that takes the lives of you and your immediate family. The answer to this question varies highly among different families and can often be the biggest hurdle to cross when completing your estate plan.
When Is Enough?
Your attorney will also ask you to sign what is known as a health care directive to specify your wishes concerning the withholding of end-of-life support necessities such as nutrition and hydration. Most people have an idea as to when quality of life has diminished below a tolerable standard, and it’s a good idea to not only make this specification in your estate plan, but also to share your decision with your healthcare agent who will be part of delivering the instructions to your doctors when the time comes.
Have You Made Any Financial Gifts to Other People?
Another common question that an estate attorney will likely ask you is whether or not you’ve made sizable financial gifts to others. Oftentimes this can be an issue between couples who may or may not have agreed on a gift that the other made.
Gifts of more than $13,000 per person must be reported on a federal gift tax return whether or not it is taxable. While you should consult your accountant for all the details regarding your taxes, estate lawyers tend to have amassed some experience helping their clients minimize tax bills that come as a result of owning an estate, and they can likely do the same for you.
A consultation with an estate attorney, depending on the complexities of your assets and how you’d want them to be divided among your heirs, usually lasts about an hour. While this is certainly enough time for most people to explain their circumstances and receive actionable advice on how to begin their estate planning journey, to maximize the value of your consultation, it helps to walk into the consultation prepared with the information that your lawyer will need to assist you in drafting your estate plan.