Jan Cummins - Counselor at Law


Q: What homework should I do prior to meeting an estate planning attorney to develop my estate plan?


Consider the following issues, and collect all the related information:

  • What property do I own? Your property needs to be properly titled so your estate plan can function as you wish. Your list should include all family businesses, real estate, retirement benefits, and financial accounts.
  • Where is the paperwork that shows that I own that property? This will include real estate deeds, bank statements and other ownership documents.
  • Who do I want to leave my property and other assets to when I die? These people are known as your beneficiaries and can include family, friends, or charities.
  • Which property and other assets do I want to leave to which beneficiaries? Do I want to leave that property outright or in trust?
    • If you’re concerned that one or more of your beneficiaries is young, cannot be trusted to handle the property prudently, or could be vulnerable to outside influences, then it might be wise to leave the property in trust. There are different types of trusts for different needs, including Revocable Trusts, Children’s Trusts, Special Needs Trusts and Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts.
  • Who do I want to care for my property while I am alive, if I ever cannot do so for myself? Details relating to this issue are handled under a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, Living Will or, if necessary, a Conservatorship or Guardianship.
  • Who do I want to trust with the distribution of my property after my death? This personal representative is also known as an executor or trustee.

Before meeting with your attorney, it’s helpful to have thought about these estate planning questions. Bringing notes about your intent and copies of these related documents to your first meeting can help streamline the process of developing your estate plan.

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