There are a number of reasons you might decide to talk to an estate planner. For example, you might be an adult child trying to get your parents’ affairs in order. Or you might be a parent yourself who’s trying to take the steps to look after your spouse and kids no matter what happens. You also might decide to talk to an estate planner because you are a grandparent, aunt, or uncle and want to protect the well-being of your extended family.
If you’re new to talking to an estate planner, don’t sweat it. One study found that 68 percent of Americans don’t even have a will. So, if you find yourself in that group, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
Making the decision to develop a plan that helps you move toward your financial goals may help you feel more confident in the future. Once you’ve decided to meet with an estate planner, you need to do your due diligence up front and go into the meeting prepared.
Part of that means understanding what your goals are and being able to articulate them. At the same time, it also means knowing what information and documentation you may need to have on hand to possibly expedite the process.
Although everyone’s financial circumstances are unique, you’ll generally want to gather the following documents and information before sitting down with your estate planner:
- Contact information for your lawyer, accountants, financial advisors, business partners, insurance agents, spouse, family members, best friends, and more
- Estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and real estate deeds
- Safe deposit box information
- Instructions on how to access important information—such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, passports, and other similar items
- Final wishes, including whether you’d like to be buried or cremated and how you’d like your memorial service to be
After you’ve gathered the relevant documents and information, it’s time to figure out what questions you’re going to ask your potential estate planner when they’re across the table from you.
What to Include in Your Estate Planning Questionnaire
Once you know where everything you need to begin the estate planning process is, you’ll need to figure out which specific estate planner to work with.
To do that, you’ll want to research your options and—after you’ve narrowed them down to a few choices—start asking each of them questions to gauge their merits.
- How much experience do you have with estate planning?
- Does your firm execute the plan or simply just draw it up?
- How much does your firm charge for estate planning?
- What’s your opinion on revocable living trusts?
- How quickly can you put together my estate plan?
- Can my plan be revised? If so, how much does that cost?
The answers to these questions should help you decide on an estate planner whose values align with yours and who meets your needs.
In addition to the run-of-the-mill questions about operations that you’ll ask your potential estate planner, you’ll also have to ask yourself some questions that are a bit more somber:
- Who will raise your kids if you and your spouse die?
- What happens with your estate if your entire family dies in a disaster (e.g., a plane crash)?
- Do you have any other descendants whom you haven’t mentioned?
- How long do you want to be kept alive artificially?
- Who is going to take care of your pets when you’re not around?
You’re the only person who can answer these questions. Take your time and think them through clearly, and you’ll do just fine.
Post-Chat Considerations and Follow-Up Questions
Nobody can predict the future. That being the case, your estate planning questionnaire should also include some variation of the following: How might things change in the future?
You want to be prepared for contingencies. An easy way to do that is by making sure your estate planner knows what your goals are. Consider looking for an estate planner who will work to understand your needs and can help you pivot as circumstances change.
What’s more, if you create a trust, you need to make sure to update the titles on those accounts (e.g., savings and brokerage accounts). With so many other things on your mind, this can be a bit of an arduous and time-consuming process. As such, you may want to look for an estate planner who can take care of the requisite paperwork on your behalf.
Beyond that, you’ll also want to make sure your properties are properly titled at all times and your beneficiaries are kept up to date.
If you need some help with estate planning, you’ve come to the right place.
Contact an advisor today to learn more about how we can partner to build an estate plan that makes sense for your goals.
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