What does your attorney need to see? Here is a list typically requested (I have asked many of my attorney colleagues to contribute, and your attorney may ask for other items, that’s ok).
Current statements – bank, brokerage, retirement accounts – the values are just part of the information needed, so complete copies of these statements are needed. One month of statements is usually sufficient, but if the financial institution only provides statements on a quarterly basis, bring the most recent.
Copies of Titles – Own a home, a boat, a car, or anything with a title? Please bring a copy.
Legal Documents – Marriage Certificate, Death Certificate for a deceased spouse, Partnership Agreement, Pre or Post Nuptial Agreement – Your estate planning attorney needs to know about you and any legal obligations you have.
Insurance – Life, Homeowners, Renters, Health – If you could not file a claim, your successor should be able to, and will need this documentation.
List of Beneficiaries – Please provide the entire list of your children, even if you don’t plan to grant them an inheritance. If you plan to leave money to charity, please provide the exact name, address and tax identification number, so that the charity is listed correctly in your documents.
List of Successors and Agents – An estate plan must include those who will serve you when you become incapacitated, you resign, or you die. Having been in this work for over 18 years, I have seen family members really struggle with the relationships and with the work itself, so please be considerate of those you love and ask the attorney for recommendations of professionals who can serve you in the following roles:
Trust – Trustee – 1,2,3
Will – Executor – 1,2,3
Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) – Agent – 1,2,3
Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) – Agent – 1,2,3
You may have noticed the numbers after each listed role. These individual roles should be considered tools in one tool box, utilized by one person/entity. So, Person 1, is going to be your Trustee, and DPOA Agent, and your AHCD Agent, while you live, and will also serve as your Executor, after you die. If you want to, you can have one person serve as your AHCD Agent, and have the tax, legal, and financial roles fulfilled by another person. If Person 1 becomes incapacitated, resigns, or dies, then Person 2 will have the job, and so on.
I strongly recommend having at least three people listed, all at least 10 years younger than you, who have experience with deciding and managing tax, legal, financial, and major medical decisions. In California, there are licensed professional fiduciaries who do this work, Fiduciary.CA.gov
In other states, there isn’t yet licensing, however, you can still find qualified professionals who are bondable and likely to have insurance to do this work, TrusteeAlliance.com
If none of your chosen people can serve, then make sure there is a mechanism so that your family doesn’t have to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to get a replacement. My fiduciary firm offers this suggested language:
“If Marguerite C. Lorenz, Clay B. Spiegel, Noah B. Benton, Joseph F. McMackin Jr., and Ryan J. Shumacher are unable to act, then the President of Lorenz Fiduciary Services shall have the authority to appoint a successor trustee.”