There are so many great self-help books out there. Many have great ideas on how to move your life forward, but when it comes to actually putting those ideas into practice, many of us let ourselves down.
The Estate Planning process allows each of us to assess what we own, who we love, and the impact we want to make in the world. By using your estate plan, you can achieve so much, and give yourself a way to measure your success.
Our trustees implement the plans created by clients and their attorneys. As private professional trustees, we have read hundreds of estate plan documents, and we have handled easy administrations, and very challenging ones. In this article, we will focus on your estate planning opportunities, and how to make the most of your dynamic estate plan.
You are the expert on your own life
No one knows your life the way you do. Working with a knowledgeable attorney means that the attorney is going to focus on the law and the form of your documents. You will be asked lots of questions about your desires. The best part of using your estate plan in moving your life forward is that the whole process begins with an inventory of what you have now.
Here are some great questions to consider, before you meet with your attorney:
What do you love about your life?
What activities do you want to continue, if you can no longer drive or initiate those activities?
If someone who doesn’t know you personally becomes your Trustee, what would you want them to know about you?
What medical procedures would be ok with you? What procedures would you refuse, if you could?
How detailed do you want your successor to be when reporting your finances to you?
Your attorney will ask you to provide details of your assets. If you have bank or brokerage statements, provide them. Copies of title paperwork, and insurance may also be requested. Perhaps more importantly, you are going to be asked about the people and causes you love.
When I worked through my first estate plan, I didn’t have much in the way of assets, but I took the opportunity to plan as if I had a lot. I chose to have language in my trust which instructed what to do about my home in case I became incapacitated or died, and I did not yet own a home. Just a few years later, I bought my first home, and since I had a trust in place, titling my home correctly was easy!
Attorney Relationship Suggestion: I called my attorney before I purchased my home to get input on title, and to make sure the language in my trust was still what I wanted. I was billed for a fifteen minute call, and it was so worth it.
A Powerful Process
I began to see how powerful this process was for me. There are lots of “What Ifs” in estate planning that didn’t seem to apply to me at first. That initial estate plan was completed about 20 years ago, and I have updated my documents three times since then. My children grew up, and no longer needed a proposed guardian. I remarried. I am grateful to have a retirement account, now. Each time I have updated my documents, it has been an opportunity to see my progress toward my biggest goals.
Estate planning not only helps us get our “ducks in a row”, but also allows us to see all we have in one place. In the comments, please share what motivated you to get your estate plan done. What challenged you the most once you were in the process?