Meeting with an estate planning lawyer for the very first time can often feel intimidating – especially if neither you nor your family are the types of people who believe they need an estate plan.
It is common for new clients to not know what questions they ought to ask. After your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer, you should better understand some basic things. Among other things, you should understand how your estate plan provides for your family and loved ones. Here are seven questions that can help you gain this understanding:
1. Why do I even need an estate plan?
Your estate planning lawyer should detail how your estate plan creates an opportunity to safeguard your assets. Also, it should also provide for your family and loved ones after death. In Indiana, if a person dies with $50,000 in his or her name, the family may have to go through Probate. Probate is a public, court-involved process that adds time and expense to the distribution of the decedent’s assets.
2. Who will care for me before I pass?
An estate plan not only addresses what happens to your assets following your passing, but it (should) also provide a plan for who will be able to make important financial and medical decisions for you in the event you become unable to make these decisions for yourself.
3. What happens to my child(ren)?
Parents will need to think carefully about who should be appointed to care for their children in the event both you and the children’s other parent die. This person will have many of the same rights and responsibilities that you and the child’s other parent have, so it is crucial that an appropriate person be chosen.
(Read more about this important topic – A Mother’s Worry)
4. What planning options can I use to protect what I leave?
Many parents are concerned that if they leave money or other assets to a child, it will be gone in no time. I could be a due to a spending spree, an overly-influential spouse, or creditors. Regardless of the concern, there are planning tools you can institute to protect what you leave to give it the best chance to be used as you would like to see it benefit your heirs.
5. Why shouldn’t I just do this myself with an estate planning do-it-yourself kit?
There are kits and books that claim to be able to help you create an estate plan at a fraction of the cost, but these resources may not be able to adequately address your specific needs and circumstances, provide assistance if you or your family members have questions before or after your death, and/or ensure your plan is crafted in accordance with Indiana law.
6. Do I have to complete everything in one meeting?
The terminology used and clarifying your needs and concerns probably warrants a couple meetings to nail down your specific wants, desires, and the planning to address them. You should be provided some information and things to consider so that you come to the first meeting with the right information and the right questions to ask. There are many stories out there where a person meets with an attorney for the first time and an hour later, the attorney asks the client to commit to a complete plan that is supposed to take care of you, your family, and your assets for the rest of your life.
You should be given time to prep for the meeting, make sure that your issues are addressed, and that you are comfortable with what is being proposed.
How do you know if you are comfortable?
You should be able to explain the basic concepts of what your plan does for you to someone else. If a trust is in your plan, you know why and how it meets your needs.
After the plan is finalized, you should stay in contact with your Estate Planning Attorney every few years. You may meet sooner if there is a major change in your life or the lives of your beneficiaries including if marriage, divorce, anyone has or adopts a child, or experiences another major life change.
What qualifications do you have?
It is essential that your estate plan be prepared by an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about the pertinent laws and prevailing practices. Unfortunately, some attorneys have high opinions of certain planning tools that they either always or never use. For example, a few years ago, a change in the law resulted in some attorneys taking a stand that Revocable Living Trusts were no longer pertinent. Others insist that a Last Will and Probate are the only way to go.
You need to work with an Estate Planning Attorney who listens to your concerns and questions and looks at who you want to provide for and what you own. There is not cookie-cutter plan that absolutely works best for everyone. Your attorney should explain why a tool/technique may or may not work for you.
The attorney should also give you the ultimate say as to whether you want or do not want to use a particular planning tool. This is important because it is possible that attorney will not be around if things change or when the tools need to be used. Having this understanding of what your plan accomplishes helps provide you and your family with peace of mind that your estate plan is sound and will achieve the desired effect it is needed.
Contact Attorney RG Skadberg with CCSK Law’s estate planning legal team to further discuss how an estate plan prepared by our experienced Indiana attorneys can provide benefits to you and your family. Call us today at (219) 230-3600.