How Do You Prepare for Estate Planning?
The details will depend on the specifics of your estate and what you want to go into your estate plan. Although, there are some basic forms, parties, and decisions that should be involved in pretty much every estate plan. You can prepare for estate planning by getting these foundational items in order.
Three things you should do when preparing an estate plan:
Gather Important Medical, Property, and Finance Documents
Your estate plan will probably include a will and/or trust, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, letter of intent, beneficiary designations, and guardianship designations. To make these cornerstone estate planning tools, you need to have a good overall picture of your health and assets. You’ll want copies of your medical records and highlights of major health events and medications. You should also get any financial records that show your assets overall, which could be from your own personal bookkeeping or a financial expert’s services. Don’t forget information about the expensive assets you own, such as vehicles, real estate property, retirement plans, etc. Although it helps to prepare all of your documents ahead of time, do not stress yourself too much about getting every single file. Your attorney can help you later if anything is missing or needs to be double-checked.
Start With a General Idea of What You Want Done
Estate plans serve two main purposes for most people: deciding how you want to be cared for when you can’t take care of or speak for yourself; and, deciding how you want your property and responsibilities divided when you pass away. Begin your pre-planning with a general idea of what you would like to see done. For example, consider if you want to be kept on life support if you have a severe medical crisis. Or think about who should inherit your car. Guardianships for your children and dependents should also be thought about well in advance.
Speak With An Attorney
When you have your documents and the purpose of your estate plan ready, it is time to talk with an estate planning lawyer. They can help you through the next steps of creating estate planning tools like wills and trusts. Your attorney will also help ensure that nothing important is overlooked and no avoidable errors are made along the way. Keep in mind that you can talk to an estate planning attorney at any point in your estate planning process. Many people actually begin preparing for their estate plan by calling a local attorney, that way they have legal support from start to finish.
The key takeaway to planning for an estate plan is that you can always work with an estate planning attorney when you need help. At no point are you going to be all alone and left guessing if you’ve hired a lawyer. The process of hiring a lawyer is a different matter to discuss altogether, but, as a safe starting point, find someone who understands your goals and genuinely cares about your future and those of your loved ones.
Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C. offers estate planning services and counsel to clients in Iowa City and Waterloo. If you have any questions about how to start an estate plan, or you already started one but need help from a professional, please contact our firm at any time. Initial consultations are free and require no obligation.