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What to do before drafting an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2023 | Probate & Estate Planning

Planning your estate is a lengthy process. But, by making an estate plan, you can help your heirs by detailing your last wishes.

The following information will be helpful to your attorney in preparing your estate plan with you.

  1. What are your assets?

You should compile a list of your assets, itemizing any assets titled in your name as well as tangible personal property of significant value.  The information should include identification of the item, how it is owned, whether it has joint owners or beneficiaries who automatically take the property upon your death, and the approximate value.

  1. Who are your heirs and who will be your beneficiaries?

Even if you have a will leaving your property to people unrelated to you and omit your family, if is necessary to identify your heirs, as they will have to be notified of any probate of your estate, whether or not they benefit.

They should also be identified in your will as being intentionally omitted.

Of course, you will need to provide the name and address of any people  you name as beneficiaries.

  1. Who will administer your estate to make sure your will is followed?  You must name an Executor for your estate, someone you trust and who has the ability to do so.  It is common and a good idea to name a successor Executor to serve if your primary is or becomes unavailable to serve.

This is good preparation for your initial estate planning meeting.

In addition, at the time you discuss your will and any trust documents which may be beneficial, as contemplated above, it is often the time when people address the need for some “living” documents, such as a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney.

Talk with someone who can be your power of attorney

For a Power of Attorney you must consider whether you wish to authorize another person who you trust, to handle your affairs if you become unable to do so yourself, or simply if you choose to ask them to handle certain business matters for you.  Who will that person be, and how extensive will the authority you give them over your affairs be?  This document may be all inclusive, or may be written to only cover a certain business matter; and only a short period of time.  A Power of Attorney is not exercisable after your death.

For a Health Care Power of Attorney you must consider whether you wish to authorize another person who you trust to make health care decisions for you and have access to your health care records in the event that you are unable to do so yourself.  This document does not permit someone to override your own decisions because they don’t agree with you, if you are competent to act.  You would need the name, address and phone number of a primary health care agent and any alternative health care agents who can act if the primary is not available to act.  You should discuss with your nominees what your health care wishes are and be sure that they are able and willing to follow your wishes.  You should state the parameters within which you wish your health care agents to act.