Being prepared is a feeling that everyone wants to experience especially when you are about to plan major life decisions. Preparing before your initial consultation with an Estate Planning attorney will help the attorney create the best plan for you, and shorten this process for you and your family. It can be hard to think of not being here one day, but if you do just that, you will be ready for what your first appointment will require. You first must decide that you want to start making a plan for your estate, then make an appointment with an Estate Planning attorney to prepare all necessary documents. These are some next steps to help simplify this planning and stay prepared for all the parts that accompany your estate planning journey.
Gather Your Financial Documents
Though most people don’t have all of their financial documents ready by their first appointment, having this ready will allow your attorney to speed up the process. If you don’t have some of these documents right away, it is very important to at least bring a list of your personal assets so the attorney can advise you as to what estate planning documents may be best for you.
- Property Deeds: To transfer your real property into a trust, the attorney must know the title is currently held. It is important to remember that each new deed has to include the legal description that emerged on the page prior. So the copy you provide to the attorney must be of the entire document that was filed.
- Financial Statements: To your consultation, you should also bring the first page of the most recent investment and bank accounts which can include: checking, savings, money market, brokerage, pension, IRA, etc. This must show who is the owner of the account, the balances, and account numbers. Remember this should be a statement not just a printout of your transactions. The information of each account will be put into one of the Schedules of Assets that are prepared by your attorney. This could be for Community property, each spouse’s property, and assets that are not in the trust for retirement, that are left out. The purpose of the Schedules of Assets is to prepare a list for your Successor trustee(s)/executor on what assets you possess. It also assists you if the accounts listed are not titled in your trust. The schedule can allow you to petition to have the assets transferred to the trust even if you have passed without having to go through the long process of probate. One thing to keep in mind is if there are co-owners on your accounts, this can hinder your ability to put them in a trust. Inform your attorney of co-owned accounts from the beginning so they can be accurately addressed in your estate plan.
- Business Agreements: This is for an individual who owns a company or has an interest in a partnership. You will have to provide your attorney with any business agreements which include, buy-sell agreements, and lease agreements, so they can review them. If your attorney doesn’t know if there are provisions in any of these agreements that address how the interest will be disposed of if you passed, your estate plan will not be able to be completed.
- Trademark, Patent, and Copyright Registration Certificates: Any intellectual property should be designated to the trust. It can be done directly through the United States Patent and Trademark Office or through a separate assignment.
- Stock Certificates: If you want your attorney to transfer your stocks into your trust you must provide them with a copy of your stock certificates.
- Life Insurance Policy Information: Whether your life insurance policy is small or large, it will help your beneficiaries in some way or form. In order for this policy money to be considered when creating your estate plan, you must provide the attorney with the insurance binders at your consultation. This will most likely be a one-page paper that indicates the owner of the policy, the death benefit, and the policy number.
Bring Copies of Your Current Estate Plan Documents
Any documents that were previously executed such as a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Trust, or Living Will, should be brought with you to your first consultation. Any existing trusts are needed so that your attorney can review the guidelines to make sure they can make an amendment. The other existing documents will be discarded by your attorney or replaced so that there are no prior documents that beneficiaries can get a hold of.
Divorce Agreements, Premarital Agreements, and Other Relevant Contracts
The Estate plan you create should follow any agreements, whether it’s divorce or premarital agreements. Additionally, it must comply with any other contract that promises to leave assets to someone.
Choose Your Executors and Healthcare Agents
When you go to your first consultation you will be asked to designate who will manage your finances and execute your estate plan if you pass or become incapacitated. You must make sure you are choosing a trusted individual that will have your best interests at heart. You will also be able to select two alternate individuals as well. If you have not been able to designate an individual, inform your attorney and they will provide you with options of the next steps to take in doing so. With this, you must consider who you would choose to make your medical decisions for you when you become unable to, which includes end-of-life care.
Think About How You Want Your Assets to Be Distributed
Not everyone knows exactly how they want their assets to be distributed, and that is totally fine. In a situation like this hiring an attorney is the best option for you. You can discuss and document some suggestions, and even seek the advice of your attorney. Those without heirs can leave their assets to charitable organizations if they do not have any children or relatives to leave their assets to. If you want other options, your attorney will help guide you to make the best decision for your situation. Having alternate beneficiaries is a crucial part as well, as the person you designate may not be around when you pass.
You know your assets and estate better than anyone, and an attorney has the experience and information to help you with any difficulties in your estate planning journey. If you are confused or do not understand the purpose of creating a specific document, it’s better to ask so you are informed on every area of your estate plan. You can ask about the time frame the attorney takes, the fees for your estate planning, and even the tax implications of your estate plan. Reviewing all documents with you should be the first priority for the attorney you choose, as the documents should reflect your interests. This will allow you to make changes or ask any questions before you sign these legal documents.
Stick to Your Appointments!
Putting off your life plan is not smart, especially when you are dealing with legal documents that must meet standards set by the state in which you reside. You may not have definite decisions yet or all documents, but it is better to provide an attorney with everything you do have, so together, you can make these decisions and complete your estate planning in advance. Organization is key, and this will allow your attorney to have a clear view of your wishes and create your estate plan without difficulty. If everything is prepared beforehand and provided to your attorney from the start, then the process of drafting the documents for you to sign shouldn’t take more than a few weeks.
Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney
Your life and possessions should be put in the best hands to ensure all your wants are met and your documents are drafted accurately and are legally binding. You should make sure to do extensive research before choosing an Estate Planning attorney. You want to seek to find a person who is professional and has a good background. Hiring an Estate Planning attorney and making sure you are prepared with all the documents needed before your first consultation, will ensure that you create the best estate plan for you and your family. No one should have to do such an important thing alone, so hire an attorney, book your consultation, and start preparing the necessary documentation for a smooth and trouble-free estate planning journey.
For further Estate Planning inquiries or questions on what documentation is needed please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at 718-333-2394 to best prepare for your future in selecting an attorney that works best for your needs.