Deciding to make an estate plan is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your future beneficiaries. Even though you have decided to take this step, you may not know how to get started. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do prior to meeting with your attorney for your first estate planning session that can help you with this process.
In order to get started with estate planning, it is imperative to seek out an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you set up your estate plans in a way that best suits your needs. The California estate planning attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver have many years of experience handling various types of estate planning cases. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys to get started your estate plans.
Have a General Idea of Your Plans for Your Estate
Prior to meeting with your estate planning attorney for the first time, it is a good idea to have a basic plan for what you want to happen to your assets in your future. You will want to ask yourself who you plan on leaving your assets to, as these individuals will be your beneficiaries. You should also consider whether or not you would like to leave some or all of your assets to a charitable organization.
If you have children, another thing you should consider is who you would like to have appointed as their guardian in the event you pass away while they are still minors. You should also decide who you would like to designate as the executor of your will. The executor will be the person responsible for making sure distributions are passed to your beneficiaries, so you will want to choose someone you deem trustworthy to handle this and other related tasks.
Determine What Assets You Own
While this may seem obvious, it is important to take a very close look in order to make sure you are not missing an asset. You probably know about the retirement account you are contributing to, but what about smaller financial accounts made several years ago? It is a good idea just to double-check to make sure you know exactly what types of assets you are planning for in your estate.
You will also want to let your attorney know if you have recently received an inheritance so that you can make sure that it is accounted for in your estate. If you anticipate receiving an inheritance in the future, that is also something you should bring to the attention of your attorney. If you are a beneficiary to a trust, you should also advise your attorney to make sure that all of these things are accounted for.
Gather Documents Related to Retirement Accounts, Life Insurance, and Real Estate
Before meeting with your attorney, it is helpful to have certain financial documents, such as documentation stating where your retirement account is held, the employer it is associated with, as well as any beneficiary designations for that account. You will also want to bring in any documents related to life insurance if you have it. For life insurance, you should also bring in any documentation that states who your beneficiaries are.
You should also bring in any documents related to any real property you own. Generally, the information needed includes the address of the property, the type of ownership interest (whether joint, sole, or tenants-in-common), the outstanding mortgage balance, and the market value. You will need this information whether the property is your primary residence, or whether it is a vacation home or a rental property.
Additionally, you should gather documents related to ownership in a business or promissory notes for debts or obligations owed to you.
Living Will and Power of Attorney
Another thing to consider prior to meeting with your attorney for your estate planning session is to decide if you want to address health-related issues. For example, you have the option to designate someone as power of attorney to make decisions for you in the event that you are either physically or mentally incapacitated. In your estate plans, you can make your wishes known regarding how you want certain medical decisions made and who you want to be making any other decisions you did not address. Make sure that you choose someone that you can trust to take on this role.
Get started with estate planning today by contacting our office at Galanti and Copenhaver. Our attorneys are here to help you get started with your estate plans and answer any additional questions you may have about the process.