What documents do you bring to your estate planning consultation?

You should be thinking about putting together an estate plan.  And when doing so, it is important to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in that area of law. Your initial meeting with an estate planning attorney provides you a great opportunity to discuss your financial situation and your goals for distributing your wealth upon death. When preparing for the initial consultation, there are several documents you should bring with you.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of documents you should bring to your estate planning consultation:

A list of goals and family circumstances.  Along with what assets you own and who you want to leave them to, you should provide specific information about your family dynamics, such as whether this is your first marriage or your fifth, or if you have a blended family or no family at all. This information is critical to ensure the attorney understands who your family members are, who you want to benefit or protect through your estate plan distribution, and which strategies are best to achieve your goals and unique circumstances.

Income references and account statements.  To adequately assess your income or to estimate your future income, it is important to review your revenue sources and all account statements.  Perhaps in doing so, you can determine whether you may be a Medicaid or Missouri HealthNet recipient in the future.  Bank statements, certificates of deposit, financial accounts, and account balances can be used to determine what immediate funds are available for you and your family, and to predict what income you may have in the future should the need arise to enroll you in a residential care facility. There may also be a need to consolidate accounts or move your accounts to better serve your interests.  The following represents a list related to these topics:

_______    Most recent individual income tax return (federal, state, and local)

_______    Most recent business income tax return (federal, state, and local)

_______    Proof of your current income

_______    Proof of your spouse’s current income

_______    Any prenuptial agreement

_______    Bank statements

_______    Certificate of Deposit

Documentation reflecting retirement accounts, stock portfolios, and real property. Whether  you have an employer-sponsored, defined benefit pension, 401(k), IRA, or other retirement accounts you and your attorney should review those documents and confirm their beneficiaries. Real property records must be checked to confirm you have a non-probate transfer established if the real property is not already in a trust. You should also look at your mortgage and appraisals and consider whether selling, downsizing, or refinancing is needed. In addition bring:

_______    Pension statements

_______    Retirement account statements

_______    Social security benefits or estimates

_______    Proof of your spouse’s current income

_______    Stock portfolios

_______    Stock options

_______    Mortgages

_______    Loan Documents

_______    Utility bills

_______    Other bills

Estate planning documents, life insurance policies, and a summary of personal property

You should always review your existing estate planning documents with your attorney.  You may also wish to review your various life insurance policies to confirm beneficiaries. While many retirees consider terminating life insurance policies, you may wish to hold onto your policy until your attorney indicates they are not necessary for estate planning purposes.

Finally, it is a good idea to review a list of your personal property, including vehicles, firearms, collectibles, antiques and office equipment. You and your attorney may discover some of your assets can be liquidated as part of your estate planning process.  Still others may require additional non-probate measures to ensure ownership after you die.

_______    Last Will and Testaments

_______    Living Wills

_______    Powers of Attorney

_______    Durable Powers of Attorney

_______    Advanced Health Care Directives – Living Wills

_______    Life insurance policies

_______    Titles

_______    Photos of unique assets

_______    Storage locker agreements

_______    Personal property appraisals

_______    List of personal property, including home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, home office                         equipment, clothing and furs, etc.

_______    List of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage

_______    List of property acquired by each spouse individually by gift or inheritance during the marriage

_______    List of contents of safety deposit boxes

When meeting with an attorney for the first time to establish an estate plan, the more information you can provide and the more clearly you present your goals, the less challenging the process will be. Visit www.toddmillerlaw.com or call (573) 634-2838 to establish your first appointment.  No planning prior to your death could result in tragedy to your loved ones and friends.

Todd Miller is a monthly contributor and regularly writes and speaks on various legal topics including bankruptcy, estate planning, probate, and elder law.  He formed the Law Office of Todd Miller, LLC, 1305 Southwest Blvd., Ste. A, Jefferson City, Missouri in 2006.  He has been awarded the Substantial Contributor Attorney Award by the Missouri Bar and ranked as one of the “Top Attorneys in Missouri” by The Legal Network.  Mr. Miller earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1999 and graduated with honors from Lincoln University in 1991.  You may find him at www.toddmillerlaw.com (573) 634-2838 or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.