We’ve all been there. Each and every one of us has sat down to complete paperwork and had absolutely no idea how to answer the questions we were asked. No one told us that we should prepare ahead of time. Well, I’m here to tell you that you should prepare ahead of time…for your estate plan that is. When you are ready to set up an estate plan, the first thing your attorney will do is ask you to fill out an intake sheet full of questions you haven’t thought about in ….well, ever! So we’ve created a list of the things you’ll need to know prior to filling out that sheet. Organize this information into your own lists so it’s easy to find when the time comes!
- Demographic Information – This is the easiest piece of the puzzle. Collect names, birthdates, addresses, and contact information for any friends or family members you’d like to reference in your estate plan. You will also need social security numbers for you and your spouse.
- Assets – Create a list of all of the things that add value to your net worth. This list should include property, cash accounts, business interests, stocks & bonds, retirement and life insurance accounts, automobiles, and any personal property that holds value.
- Debts – Creating a debt list is just as important as creating an asset list when it comes to estate planning…although it may not be as fun. Debt lists should include mortgages, loans, debts to family members, and any other creditors to whom you owe money.
- Contacts – These are the people that you trust with your personal information. This list should include financial advisors, health care providers, and legal representatives. Include phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each individual if possible.
- Personal Wishes – This list is perhaps the most time-consuming of all. Take some time to think about what you’d like to get out of your estate plan. Do you want your property to be passed on in a particular way? Have you thought about your funeral arrangements? Do you have an individual in your life that will need specialized care after you are gone? Specify the outcomes of each of your thoughts and make sure they are in alignment with your goals.
You will save yourself a ton of time and aspirin if you make these lists out before beginning your Estate Plan Intake Sheet. That being said, there are always questions that come up. Do not be afraid to call your attorney if you are unsure of a question or an answer. This way you not only walk out of your meeting with the peace of mind that a well-thought out plan can provide, you walk into it that way too.