Estate Documents Done?
"If I knew it was this easy, I would have come in sooner!"
If you have put off drafting your will and estate planning documents, you are not alone. Most folks who come to see us have put it off too — until they were faced with the loss of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, or an aging parent or spouse.
No matter the circumstances that bring our clients in, the response at the end is always the same: "If I knew it was that easy, I would have come in sooner!"
So what information do you need when you see your lawyer for estate planning?
You should be prepared to name someone you trust to be in charge of your estate — this is your Executor — and he/she will be charged with marshaling your assets and distributing them as you direct, to whom you direct. Be prepared with the name of an alternate executor.
Know that you can create a separate writing to leave special tangible property (personal belongings and things you can "touch") to particular people, and you can keep it with your will and change it when you like (and not have to pay your lawyer to do so). For your other tangible property not on that list, you will designate primary and alternate beneficiaries.
Your residual estate is everything else and you will designate primary and alternate beneficiaries here too. You can also leave certain percentages to specific people or charities, or make specific bequests or monetary "gifts."
Be aware of special safeguards that can be employed if you intend to disinherit someone — things that will serve to thwart future litigation.
You can create a trust contained within your will in the event that any beneficiary is under a designated age — for example, if someone is under 25 years old (or another age you specify). You will then name a trustee and alternate trustee who will make sure the trust monies are used appropriately until the specified age is reached.
You can create a trust for loved ones with special needs that will not impact their right to receive government benefits.
You can create a trust for a beloved pet (we are in horse country after all!).
Be prepared to name your Agent with durable power of attorney. This person will attend to your affairs if you can no longer do so.
Be prepared to designate an Agent for healthcare decisions, including end-of-life decisions.
Most of all, establish a rapport with your attorney and a level of trust that allows her to guide you seamlessly through this process. Share your marital status, concerns regarding various children and others in your life who will be impacted by your decisions. She will set safeguards in place to ensure your wishes are honored and your loved ones protected.