By Joseph Hurwitz
In this series, Planning for the Future, I am exploring different topics and methods for Estate Planning. This article’s topic is about how to prepare for a meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney. Most attorneys charge for consultations or meetings to set-up your Estate Plan, so the better prepared you are, the less time that will be spent on your initial meeting.
The most important thing needed to have ready ahead of time is a list of specific items you wish to have others inherit. This will help to make sure you are accounting for everyone and everything. It will also help your attorney in drafting the Will as quickly as possible. The general rule of thumb when describing an item is, “Would a random person who is given the list of items be able to know exactly which item goes to whom?” This holds especially true for jewelry because “diamond ring” could be several different rings and you are specifically wishing for someone to get your diamond engagement ring. This is why it is important to be as descriptive as possible.
When making this list, be sure to have back-up people to inherit just in case the person you intend to inherit the property passes away before you do. Having a back-up ensures your property goes to your second or third choice. There may be unintended consequences from not making sure you have a back-up.
A list of Real Property, which covers land and homes, is needed because new Deeds will not be drafted to state the inheritance. The new owners need to be able to reference the Will to show which piece of land or home they are entitled to inherit. This is especially important when several people will be inheriting partial ownership of Real Property.
Titled property like cars, boats, trailers, etc. will have to be retitled when inherited. A complete list of these items will not only assist the attorney when drafting the Will, but will also assist the Executor of your estate in signing over the titles for these items when the estate is closing. Like mentioned above; VINs, serial numbers, and descriptions will make things smoother when your Will is being probated and validated.
Bank account information is important as well. Many people do not know about all of the bank accounts someone else may have. The Executor of your estate may need access to those accounts to pay any outstanding debts or bills until the estate is finished being probated. If an unknown bank account is overlooked and never discovered, the end result is often that the state will take the unclaimed money for itself.
Lastly, please make sure your attorney knows of any funeral arrangements, health care restrictions or other decisions regarding your end of life to ensure your wishes are followed.
A little preparation and organization will help make your estate planning go smoother and often times quicker. As discussed in my previous articles, your estate plan can be as specific and in-depth as you’d like but these lists are the starting point to ensure all of your wishes are honored.
This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. This article is not legal advice and if you have any legal questions or concerns you are encouraged to seek the counsel of a licensed attorney in your area.
Joseph Hurwitz, Attorney at Law, Lake Lure – 828-777-4785