Before we begin creating the documents for your estate plan, you should know the answers to the following questions:
- What are your goals and objectives? This is the most important part of your plan. When your children are young, your primary concern may be appointing a guardian for your children and controlling the timing and method of distribution of your estate assets to them. Later, you may want to set up a trust so your heirs can avoid probate, or provide for a disabled family member after you are gone. As the Cheshire cat said to Alice, if you don’t know where you want to end up, it doesn’t really matter which way you go.
- What does your estate consist of? Most people initially answer this question by listing their house, vehicles and a few bank accounts. Closer consideration often reveals several other assets such as life insurance, retirement accounts, annuities and money owed to you by others. I will assist you in identifying all of your assets so you can incorporate them into a comprehensive estate plan.
- What are your probate and non-probate assets? Knowing the difference between assets that will go through probate and those that will pass to others automatically upon your death will allow you to plan accordingly. Often times people don’t realize that assets they hold jointly with others or with a ‘pay on death’ designation aren’t subject to their Last Will or Trust. Even though their Will or Trust may call for their estate to be equally shared by their children, if an asset is held jointly or payable on death to one child that child will be the new owner of the asset and will not be required to honor the parent’s wishes. This can lead to litigation and strife between children after a parents death.