Come Prepared with an Inventory of Assets for Your Initial Meeting with Your Estate Planning Attorney
I am starting a series of short articles on topics that are consistently discussed during the initial consultations with clients.
Most clients do not have a solid understanding of what they own and underestimate the financial or sentimental value of their assets. This lack of understanding is one of the main reasons people diminish the importance of completing their estate plan. They think they don’t own much of value and that their family members will be on the same page regarding the distribution of their assets and decisions regarding their health care. Once they take an inventory of their assets and begin discussing the distribution of their assets with their spouse and children many issues arise. They are surprised to learn one child has no interest in the summer cabin, another child covets the china and their sister has absolutely no interest in being left with the care of the family pet.
To begin the estate planning process you will be required to complete a rather extensive questionnaire that seeks to understand your family make-up, assets, debts, retirement plans and health concerns. An estate planning attorney cannot design a plan unique to your goals, assets and family without this information. Your estate planning attorney should work in concert with your financial planner to accomplish your goals.
Prepare to complete an intake form for your first meeting by organizing your assets.
Copy of deeds to all the property you own. The deeds will reveal how title is held, tax identification number and whether there is property located out of state.
Market Value and Loan balance
FURNITURE AND PERSONAL EFFECTS
This category of assets includes possessions like jewelry, antiques, art and family heirlooms. These assets can be financially valuable and/or have sentimental value.
BANKS AND SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
The balances of checking accounts, savings accounts, CD’s and money market accounts and how the accounts are held help determine what estate planning vehicle will best facilitate the transfer of these assets upon the death of the owner.
STOCKS AND BONDS
If stocks and bonds are held in brokerage accounts, know the balance of each account. The balance in these accounts along with the other assets help determine whether state or federal estate tax may be owed.
Type of insurance may include: term, whole life, group life or annuity. Do you know the insurance company, death benefit, who owns the policy or whether the beneficiary designations need to be updated due to divorce or other circumstances? It will be useful to have a copy of your insurance documents at the initial meeting with your attorney.
Pensions, profit sharing, 401ks, 403bs, IRAs. Type of plan and current value.
General or limited partnerships, sole proprietorships, privately owned corporations, oil, farm or ranch interests.
Completing an inventory of assets results in a sense of accomplishment. It also facilitates a more meaningful conversation with your estate planning attorney about your estate planning goals.