Preparing for your Initial Estate Planning Meeting
By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD
How do you prepare for your first meeting with an estate
planner? Remember the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared". Advance leg work will
save you money, make the meeting more productive, get you real advice instead
of theoretical discussions, but most importantly, get you on the path to
achieving YOUR goals.
CATEGORY 1 - FINANCIAL
Balance sheet - you need a summary of all assets and
liabilities. This is a "mile high" view, not the detail your financial
planner needs. Key - identify who owns which assets (you, you and your
spouse jointly, you and your spouse tenants in common, you and a partner,
you in trust for your niece, etc.). This is vital to determine what assets
pass under your will.
What is your total net worth. This is key to
determining if you need estate tax planning, insurance, etc.
Copy key asset and liability documents, e.g.,
Copy all beneficiary designations, e.g. your
CATEGORY 2- PEOPLE
List "family" members:
Family Relationship, e.g. son-in-law.
Status of that relationship, e.g., haven't
talked to that bum son-in-law since the wedding. You need to list
people who are close relatives even if you don't want them
involved, perhaps especially so.
Social Security Number.
"Family" can mean more than those related by
blood, you should include on your list the key people in your
CATEGORY 3 - GOALS
Goals - what are your goals. Don't just dismiss this
as you want to save taxes. No one wants to pay more tax then they have to.
But what to YOU REALLY want?
Who should inherit your assets.
What worries do you have about your
What retirement plans do you have.
What financial worries do you have.
What goals do you have.
It is NOT acceptable to say that you want a
specific technique, "I want a living trust". That is not a goal. If
you start with techniques or "answers" instead of goals, you'll
never get what you need or want!
Do you have other family members, an aunt,
nephew, etc. you help out financially? What happens if you
Do you have specific burial or funeral
Specific lifestyle you want to encourage in
There are no rules or limits. What is important to you and what YOUR goals
are, is what should be identified. If you make the effort to think through
these issues and make some notes of key goals, it will give your estate planner
a clear idea of how to get the process going. This will be more effective
Our Consumer Webcasts and Blogs
Subscribe to our email list to receive information on consumer webcasts and blogs, for practical legal information in simple English, delivered to your inbox. For more professional driven information, please visit Shenkman Law to subscribe.