When you’ve decided to plan your estate, the chances are that you don’t know what to expect in your first estate planning consultation. Understandably, you may feel nervous because estate planning also means coming to terms with your mortality. However, acknowledging that it’s time to plan your estate is the right decision, no matter how old you are. An estate plan ensures that you protect your property and beneficiaries when you’re gone.
At Tanko Law, we’ve found that we utilize your time effectively when you know what to bring to the first consultation. Here is a checklist of how to prepare for your first estate planning meeting.
Fill Out The Intake Questionnaire
When you first consult your estate attorney at Tanko Law, they may issue a questionnaire. The purpose of the document is to collect details about your family and financial situation. All the information you provide is confidential, which means you don’t have to worry about safety.
You must provide all the details in the questionnaire to save time during the first meeting and help the estate attorney prepare for you. While there are laws governing estate planning in Montana, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each plan may vary depending on family circumstances such as estranged family members, prenuptial agreements, children, and divorces.
In addition, questionnaires before the first meeting ensure that nothing is missed. It’s easy to forget crucial details during the session. Remember that your estate planning attorney will use the information you provide to prepare the right plan for you. Missing or excluding information only lengthens and complicates the process.
Carry All the Documents
Gather all financial and family paperwork to make the most of your first estate planning consultation—some of the documents you should bring or make copies of include.
Grant Deeds to Real Estate
A grant deed is a legal document that transfers property from a grantor to the grantee. Your attorney needs grant deeds because they show who holds the title or ownership of real property. With the right title, the attorney can transfer the property to a trust if it’s your chosen estate planning method. Note that the details in your deed must match those in the deed before yours.
You need to bring updated monthly statements about your bank and investments. These include documents about:
- Checking account
- Money market funds
- Stocks and bonds
- Retirement accounts
- Debts: loans, mortgage, credit card debt
The statements should show who owns the accounts, the account numbers, and balances. Your attorney uses these documents to separate the assets into different categories for purposes of inheritance.
For instance, community property is equally owned by each spouse and is acquired during the marriage. In contrast, separate property belongs to each individual because it’s assets that each spouse has before the marriage. There are also assets such as qualified retirement accounts that may not be transferable to trusts and may only require a beneficiary change. When the attorney has a better understanding of what you own separately or jointly, they can advise you accordingly.
If you own a business or are a partner in a company, your attorney needs to see your signed business agreement. In most cases, the business agreement stipulates the disposition of interests after your passing.
Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
Your intellectual property also matters. You can include it in your will and pass it to a chosen beneficiary or a trust.
Life Insurance and Policy Information
If you have a life insurance policy, the payout goes to the people listed as beneficiaries. Bringing your life insurance policy documents during estate planning helps you review the amounts and beneficiaries.
Estate Plan Documents
If you have written a will, created a trust, have the power of attorney or an advance healthcare directive, bring them. Your attorney will need to review each document, discuss the provisions with you, and amend them as required. In some cases, it may be crucial to destroy previous wills or supersede them to avoid confusion when it’s time to distribute your estate.
Divorce Documents and Prenuptial Agreements
Marriage and divorce affect your estate plans. It’s important to review all documents to ensure that you either list or delist spouses. Your attorney will also advise you on laws that affect the disinheritance of spouses.
Think About Your Estate Distribution Beforehand
Your lawyer may help you navigate the legal hurdles of estate planning, but they cannot define your desires. Take time to think about how you’d like to distribute your assets. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Who would I want to inherit my property after my passing?
- Who can I trust to make decisions about my health when I am incapacitated?
- Who would I trust to take care of my children when I die?
- What are all my assets?
- Who do I trust to be an executor for my will?
- Are there unique beneficiaries I would like to include?
- How can I ensure the proper use and distribution of my estate when I die?
Prepare Questions for Your Estate Lawyer
Never hesitate to ask your attorney questions. Your Tanko Law estate attorney has the knowledge and experience to respond to any of your queries. You can also prepare a list of questions for your lawyer. Feel free to ask for clarification in any matter.
- Your attorney’s estate planning process. Should you fill in questionnaires, book an initial consultation or walk in, organize a video call, or chat on the website?
- The purpose of any estate planning documents.
- The tax implications of estate planning.
- Your attorney’s experience and background in estate planning.
- The cost of estate planning.
- What type of will or trust is best for you.
- How does your estate plan affect your spouse, children, and other beneficiaries?
- Do you need to update or destroy previous wills?
- How can you ensure a smooth inheritance process after your death?
- How can you reduce disputes among your beneficiaries after your passing?
Tanko Law Is Here For You
Estate planning is a process that is personalized to meet each client’s needs. Our estate attorneys at Tanko Law look forward to serving you and providing the best estate plan for you and your beneficiaries. Feel free to contact us for your first estate planning consultation.