If you are going to meet with an estate planning attorney, you should prepare ahead of time in order to have a productive discussion. The following include some recommendations that will assist you in preparing for the meeting:
1. Discuss the important documents of any estate plan: durable power of attorney for health care, durable power of attorney for property, and a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release.
2. Think about how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. Write it down in your own words.
3. Review any contracts and beneficiary designations you currently have in place. At the meeting, confirm with your estate planning attorney that they are carrying out your wishes.
4. Be sure to review and update your will and/or trust every so often. In particular, you will want to consider reviewing your estate plan after a major life event, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of a loved one.
5. Make sure your estate plan provides sufficient sources of income for your beneficiaries. Purchasing a life insurance policy can provide your financial dependents with a supplement for a loss of your income.
6. Openly discuss with your spouse or loved one how your estate plan will affect him or her if you pass away first. See if he or she is comfortable with it. If necessary, make changes based on your discussion.
7. Calculate the amount of estate taxes that will be due at your death. If you are married with children, analyze the potential impact of taxes on your children should your spouse predecease you or should you predecease your spouse. If the amount of taxes is significant, discuss with your estate planning attorney the possibility of making changes to your estate plan or gifting to reduce potential estate taxes.
8. If you have a revocable living trust that is not funded yet, you should fund it so that you and your beneficiaries can maximize its benefits of flexibility, privacy and convenience. If you own real property in a state other than your legal residence, consider deeding the property to your trust so that you can avoid additional probate proceedings in that state after your death.
9. Be sure to select an executor of your estate, a trustee for your trust, and a guardian for your minor children.
It is critical that you understand the language in your current estate planning documents. If anything is not clear to you, ask your estate planning attorney to explain it and its impact on your heirs.
Linda M. Strohschein
Attorney at Law