Preparing to Meet with Your Attorney

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Time equals money when you work with any professional advisor. So how can you most effectively and thoughtfully work with an estate planning attorney?

“Identifying and prioritizing your goals is very important. The more thinking you can do in advance of the meeting concerning your goals, the better able your attorney will be to help you meet those goals,” says Margaret A. Hoag ’86, an attorney with Eckel, Morgan & O’Connor in Acton, Massachusetts, where she concentrates her practice in elder law, including estate planning. 

In preparation for your meeting, your attorney will most likely provide a questionnaire. The questions will help form the basic structure of your planning—your assets, family members, and estate documents currently in place. In addition to responding to fact-based questions, Margaret suggests you think about:

  • How, and how much, you want to provide for your children and/or grandchildren.

Think carefully about how to divide your children’s inheritance. Children do tend to look at their inheritance as a measure of their parent’s love, but there are reasons why a parent may choose to leave unequal shares or differences in how they receive that inheritance.

  • What your biggest concerns are as you plan your estate.

Important concerns that should be addressed in your planning include preserving or passing on a family business, protecting the estate from lawsuits or creditors, providing for children from a prior marriage, providing for a child (minor or adult) with special needs, or anticipating a will contest or disagreement among family members.

  • Who to name to serve in certain roles in your estate: executor/executrix, power of attorney for financial matters, and power of attorney for health issues.

Bear in mind that as the responsibilities are different, it may well be best to have different—and younger—individuals handling these responsibilities.

  • How and how much of your estate you want to use to make a bequest to one or more charitable organizations.

Discuss with your advisor which assets are best to use for a bequest or other testamentary gift. Take time to consider the impact of making a gift from a percentage of your gross estate or, alternatively, from the remainder of your estate. “I spend a lot of time researching charities, so it’s a time-saver when a client knows exactly which charity (including whether it is a national organization or local affiliate) they want to support,” says Margaret. Click here for suggested bequest language to share with your attorney.

You don’t have to have all the answers before you meet with your attorney. In fact, part of her or his role as an advisor is to help guide you through these types of questions. However, the more you can identify particular areas of concern or describe why you have made certain choices, the better able your attorney is to prepare the estate plan that is right for you.