There are many obvious questions to think about as you get ready to meet with your estate planning attorney to begin the preparation of an estate plan. Some 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.
Let’s say you enter into a business agreement, and five years later there is a dispute about what it says. You will have the opportunity to explain your version of what you think the agreement was intended to say. But with estate documents, it will be very difficult for you to give that explanation about your intentions after you have become incapacitated or are deceased. Therefore, it is very important that the documents clearly express your desires with regard to your estate.
The first and possibly the most obvious item of information is your names. 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? Yes.
If someone is a “Senior” and someone else a “Junior”, that should be included in each person’s name. Similarly, if someone is a “II”, “III”, etc., then that should be also 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 to the people. Identification descriptors such as, “my cousin”; “my brother”, or “my friend” can be very important. We have more than one situation where two people had the same first and last name. In one case, two brothers each married women with the same first name. In another case, a son married a woman whose first name was the same as his unmarried sister.
If you have more questions regarding your future, you will need to talk to an experienced estate planning attorney. For decades, Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC has been helping clients plan their futures in Tennessee. Contact us today for a free consultation.