How You Can Take Charge of Your Estate Plan
You may be working with an attorney to draft your estate plan, but the process is not entirely in their hands. In fact, much of what the attorney does depends on you. The attorney assists you by committing to paper the goals for your estate and how it is divided among your beneficiaries. Therefore, the more information you have ready the better your estate plan creation process will be.
Here are some ways you can be an active participant in your estate plan process.
Take an active role in the estate plan creation process.
- Prepare ahead of time for each meeting
- Fill out the forms your attorney provided to you
- Be prepared to discuss the following topics: your own death, times of poor health, and who will help you when either death or poor health occur; who will take care of your pets; if there are specific items or dollar amounts to give away.
- Bring questions to your attorney – so you can learn and have concerns addressed
- Provide your attorney with the information they require:
- They will need to know the names of your beneficiaries and possibly their birth date (to help serve as a unique identifier).
- They will need the address and phone number for persons listed to make medical decisions in your Advance Directive and to handle funeral arrangements in your Appointment of Persons to Make Decision Concerning Disposition of Remains
Make a contribution to your estate plan documents
- Draft a preamble for your Revocable Living Trust
- the preamble, or Statement of Intent, may be a general statement of your goals, a note or meaningful quote for your family, a faith based statement on your values, all of the above, or more.
- Do remember that a Trust is a contract, a private contract. And, a contract can contain customized language to your liking so feel free to ask for customized language.
- Prepare some instructions for future your memorial service
- Decide if you want cremation, burial, and who will be in charge of your remains.
- If you want to give part of your estate to persons who are “spendthrifts” (spend money too quickly, inappropriately, or both) please think about the guidelines the future Trustee should follow when deciding when and for what reason to distribute money to them.
Discuss it with family and friends
- Tell your children that you will be making an estate plan
- You may even ask your attorney if they would be willing to allow your children to sit in on an initial or follow-up meeting to discuss your estate plan (this requires your waiver of confidentiality, however). Your attorney can either talk about the planning tools you have put in place generally, or discuss the specific details of your plan depending on how much you want to share with your family.
- Yet, always keep in mind that your estate plan is private and so is your relationship with your attorney
Overall, the estate plan creation process requires a handful of meetings with your attorney, and a fair amount of your own effort. It should be straight forward, and almost always brings peace of mind when it is completed. And do remember that your estate plan should be updated every few years as your life circumstances change over time.