What Do I Need to Create a Will and Estate Plan?

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You have taken the prudent step of working on your estate plans. You are protecting your children by getting your affairs in order, and are preparing for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney.

Congratulations!

The hardest part is over. You’ve decided to take that first step. But how can you prepare for this first meeting? How can you save time, both for yourself and for your attorney?

Eight Sets of Papers You Should Bring to your Estate Planning Attorney

  1. Information About Your Business(es)

Do you own a part of a business? Or more than one? Bring tax details about the businesses, as well as the locations of each. If they are LLPs, sole proprietorships, family businesses, or S-corporations, your attorney will need to know.

  1. A List of Physical Assets

Upon first meeting, this list does not need to be exhaustive. At this point, this list may be the least important set of this eight. But you will be considering the liquidation value — not the replacement value — of each item for tax purposes. This may include vehicles, jewelry, collections, books, media, furniture, and anything else that is not tied to an account.

  1. Real Estate Documents

You will want to know the outstanding mortgage balance, the current market value, and your ownership interest (i.e. sole ownership, joint ownership, or tenants-in-common). This includes your primary residence, of course, as well as investment property, rental properties, vacation homes, or any other kind of property.

  1. Life Insurance Details

Bring the company name, the account numbers, and the precise death benefit. We also need to make sure your premiums continue to be paid in the event of your injury or incapacitation — just to make sure those life insurance benefits do not vaporize in such a case. Even one missed payment could jeopardize the payout for your beneficiaries.

  1. Your Own Inheritance Information

Are you still receiving funds from a family trust? Are there other family members from whom you may be expecting an inheritance? Whether or not you know for certain that you will be named a beneficiary, you will want to list those potential inheritance possibilities.

  1. Retirement Savings Information

Here we are wanting to see where these accounts are held — with employers or financial institutions — as well as the types of accounts these are. While the exact amount is not necessary, it is helpful to know the approximate value of these accounts. . If you have a pension, we need to know about it. If you have a 401[k], an IRA, a Roth, a 457, or anything like that, be ready to list it.

  1. Non-Retirement Assets

The most important thing here is how these accounts are named. Only your name? Shared with a spouse or a sibling? Here we are talking about mutual funds, stocks, bonds, treasury notes, annuities, and good old-fashioned savings and checking accounts.

  1. Family Members’ Profiles

Please bring full contact information — full legal names, dates of birth, nicknames, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and more — for anyone you want to name in your estate. Your children, stepchildren, and grandchildren, as well as siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, parents, and more. And, of course, don’t forget your spouse. Or your former spouses, if that is in your plans.

We wish you the best of luck in your estate planning journey, and again congratulate you on making a smart, considerate, prudent step in caring for your loved ones.

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