The creation of an effective estate plan can be one of the most important decisions in your life. Or for that matter, for your family and loved ones as well.
The importance of deciding how and to whom your assets will be distributed when you die is of paramount importance. However, an estate plan goes far beyond that concept. Maybe you wish to plan for your incapacity, or you are looking to save estate taxes. Maybe you are looking to create a trust for purposes of Medicaid or long-term care planning. These are all factors that must be taken into account and should be considered when speaking to an estate planning attorney.
Most estate planning attorneys will seek to forward an estate questionnaire intake for the prospective client so as to create a sketch of their estate and their goals (i.e. saving estate taxes, asset preservation, business succession plan, the creation of trusts in the event of incapacity).
You should be prepared to reveal the nature of all assets of significant value in addition to the type of ownership. For example, a house may be owned jointly between yourself and spouse, or possibly another family member. Assets can and will include: personal property (i.e. coin collection, motor vehicles, antiques), investments (i.e. checking/savings accounts, IRA, life insurance, brokerage accounts), business interests, and real estate. You should also be prepared to discuss any liabilities as well such as judgments, bank loans, and both secured and unsecured loans.
As stated earlier, it is imperative to provide your estate planning attorney with your estate planning goals and objectives. Goals may include: gifting, specific bequests, tax minimization, Medicaid benefits eligibility, the creation of a Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT), living will, health care proxy, and power of attorney.
These are just some fundamental factors to take into account when providing information for the creation of an estate plan.
Please remember that if you die without a will, the laws of intestacy will determine who inherits your estate (next of kin), as opposed to your wishes. Although you may wish to have your next of kin inherit your estate, it is very important to state your wishes in your will and other estate planning documents.