California Estate Planning Blog
Category: Estate Planning

The 3 Best Ways to Get Ready for Your Estate Plan Design Meeting

Designing your estate plan will raise questions and propose scenarios that you may have not previously considered.  You can avoid feeling overwhelmed by addressing some of these big questions beforehand and gathering the supporting information your attorney will need.

Here are the 3 best ways to get ready for your estate plan design meeting:

Examine your financial life. 

The primary function of an estate plan is to arrange how assets will be distributed after the owner’s death.  Assets refers not only to money, but also real property, personal property, and digital property.

Before your meeting, take 20 minutes to brainstorm a list of any valuable property you may have.  Your attorney will want to know as much detail about your assets as possible, so he or she can tailor your plan to your specific situation. 

  1. Save time by printing your most recent online statements or taking a snapshot of your account homepage.
  2. Make a copy of any real estate deeds you have.
  3. If you have large digital holdings on websites like Facebook or Dropbox, make sure you mention it to the attorney, so he or she can review the Terms of Use Agreement to understand exactly how those digital assets can be inherited.
  4. If you have any valuable personal property, like antiques, jewelry, or art, any appraisals or insurance values would also be useful.

Verify your beneficiaries.

If you have a life insurance policy or a retirement plan, you most likely named a beneficiary when you opened these plans.  If you cannot remember who you named, or whether or not you named contingent beneficiaries, review the plan paperwork and bring a copy to your design meeting.  You may need to contact someone in your HR department if the plan is a work benefit.   

Life insurance policies and retirement plans pass outside the protection of a will or trust structure, and so properly naming the right beneficiary(ies) is your only chance to. 

Consider your caretakers. 

Many people do not know that a big part of estate planning is naming individuals to help you carry out your wishes.  You will choose both financial and healthcare agents, who would make decisions for you if you are ever incapacitated.  You will choose an executor/trustee, who will be in charge of ensuring that the instructions you leave in your will or trust a carried out in the way you envisioned. 

If you have minor children, you will choose people as both temporary and permanent guardians, who would be responsible for helping your children in a family emergency and ultimately raising them in your place, if necessary.

Most people choose from their closest friends and family members, but it is unlikely that one person would be suited to all of the roles.  Imagine who might do best dealing with medical professionals, who is comfortable with accounting and taxes, and who would be most likely to raise your children as you would have wanted.  Although these scenarios may be uncomfortable, you will feel much more confident once your team is in place.

If you plan with LifeLadder Estate Planning, we facilitate personal journey described above by asking you to complete the Financial Asset Log & Self-Assessment at least three days before your Design Meeting.  This online questionnaire will prompt you about your financial picture, family values and your potential agents and beneficiaries, to ease you into the decisions required at the Design Meeting.

To find out more about estate planning with LifeLadder, check out our 10-minute Introductory Webinar.

Legal Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Please contact LifeLadder Estate Planning for a consultation on your particular legal matter. This web site is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of California.

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