There is plenty to think about as you get ready to meet with your estate planning attorney to begin the preparation of an estate plan. When you begin the estate planning process, you’re bound to have many questions for your attorney—from the process itself to how the working relationship takes place with your attorney. These are not only valid questions but important ones to ask.
Knowing what to consider when estate planning is essential to developing an airtight plan that expresses your wishes for your family and estate. In this article, we’ll walk you through the most important estate planning questions to ask your attorney to ensure an effective estate plan.
Estate Planning FAQ – What Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney
Some of the estate planning questions you need to ask may seem obvious and mundane, but you have to keep in mind that estate planning documents are different from most other legal documents. That is because the documents are often not really needed until later when you have become incapacitated or have passed away.
Who will be handling my estate planning?
When you begin the estate planning process, knowing that you will be paired with one attorney will likely be important to you, especially if you have a complex estate or simply just feel uncomfortable having your case passed around.
You can rest assured that when you work with us, your estate planning will be in good hands, but always know you can ask your attorney questions about your point of contact throughout the process.
What services do you offer as an estate planning specialist?
This is critical. Some attorneys specialize in trusts, while others do not. Though at MHPS, we can help you with a variety of estate planning tools, including trusts. It is important to know what services your attorney offers before signing any contracts.
What do you need from me to begin the process?
While you need your attorney to be prepared to help you with the estate planning process, you also need to be prepared for meetings. Many attorneys will ask you to bring a list of assets, titles, deeds, and any relevant documents for selecting beneficiaries or executors.
What to Bring to an Estate Planning Meeting
During your initial consultation, your attorney will ensure you know what is needed before the next meeting, but it’s always good to be prepared. Documents you should bring to an estate planning meeting typically include:
- A list of beneficiaries
- A list of executors
- Your financial records, including financial statements and business agreements
- Important contract documents, such as prenuptial or divorce agreements
What do I need for estate planning?
Many people believe they just need a will to be secured in the future. But the reality is there are so many more documents that will work to keep you and your loved ones protected and cared for.
Your estate planning attorney will be able to answer your estate planning questions and explain the benefits of wills, trusts, advanced directives, etc. and help you to devise a plan that works for you.
I have a business but not a succession plan. Where do I start?
When you are planning for retirement, selling the business, or for the possibility of an emergency, having a business succession plan is critical to your future and that of any employees you may have.
Your attorney will be able to review your goals for the business’s future as well as potential successors to it. From there, you can develop a retirement plan, including preparing any and all financial documents you’ll need to have ready.
The executor of the estate needs to be changed. Is this possible?
Be it a change in marital status or the death of a loved one, there are times when you may need to change the successor of the estate and even who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf.
Whether you have a preexisting estate plan in place, or life events have made you realize that now is the time to devise them, you can certainly change the executors and beneficiaries of your estate, so long as you stand competent to do so.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going to an Estate Planning Attorney—What’s In a Name?
Now that you’ve gone through our estate planning FAQ and know what questions to ask an estate planning attorney, you need to know what questions to ask yourself first.
Knowing what to consider when estate planning is half the battle. In addition to questions your attorney can answer for you, there are plenty of questions you should ask and answer yourself prior to your initial consultation to make sure you can clearly express your desires with regard to your estate.
One of the most important estate planning questions you can ask yourself is about the names of your beneficiaries and executors:
Does it matter which names you use in estate planning documents?
Is it necessary to use the name on your driver’s license or social security card? No. If you are married and changed your last name, do you have to produce a marriage license to show what has your maiden name? No. Is it important to make sure everyone is clearly identified?
If someone is a “Senior” and someone else a “Junior”, that should be included in each person’s name to prevent confusion. Similarly, if someone is a “II”, “III”, etc., then that should also be indicated.
If your child is married and changed the name from a maiden name to a married name, which one do you use? You should use the name of the child at the time the documents are created.
If the child later divorces and goes back to the maiden name, do you need to change your estate documents to match the change? No. Your child is who your child is, regardless of what name is being used at the time the documents are executed and later when needed.
In addition to providing names, you might also want to provide a designation as to your relationship with the people. Identification descriptors such as, “my cousin”; “my brother”, or “my friend” can be very important.
For example, we have more than one situation where two people had the same first and last name. In one case, two brothers each married a woman with the same first name. In another case, a son married a woman whose first name was the same as his unmarried sister. This can lead to a lot of mistaken identities in estate planning that can complicate matters upon your passing or incapacitation.
Get the Right Estate Planning Questions Answered with MHPS
If you have more questions regarding your future, you will need to talk to an experienced estate planning attorney. For decades, MHPS has been helping clients plan their futures in Tennessee. Our estate planning lawyers will guide you through the estate planning process with the compassion needed to help you understand what to consider when estate planning. To get started, schedule a consultation today.