You’re finally ready to sit down with an attorney to have your will drafted but are you prepared for what the attorney will need to know? Have you given thought to all the details that should be included in your will? Even if you think your estate is simple (“All my stuff goes to my spouse, easy peasy!”), there are many other questions you should be prepared to answer before sitting with an attorney. Thoughtful planning now can help you avoid the multiple meetings, lengthy process, and costly future changes that can result from quick decisions.
Note: While this article references preparing your will, the same questions will need to be resolved if your attorney recommends you prepare a will and a revocable trust. For more on this read to the end.
What does your estate include?
Who do you want to handle your estate when you die?
Who do you want to receive your tangible personal property (TPP)?
Do you have any individuals or organizations you specifically want to receive a certain amount?
For your remaining assets, what do you want to achieve?
Who do you want to receive your remaining assets and how?
Who are your contingent beneficiaries?
Who will you name as the guardian(s) of your minor children in your will?
How will your closely held business interests be handled?
Are there children from a prior marriage (or outside of marriage) whom you need to address?
You might be wondering, where does a revocable trust fit into all of this? Commonly, individuals will create a very simple will that primarily states that all assets will be distributed into his or her revocable trust. The answers to all remaining questions mentioned above are then answered inside the revocable trust document rather than inside the will itself. This kind of planning is often called a “pour over will and revocable trust” because the will simply “pours” out directly into the trust. We are seeing more attorneys recommend this type of planning, for various reasons. A further explanation of planning with the use of a revocable trust is perhaps best left for another article. In the meantime, consult with your advisors to determine if a revocable trust may be necessary for you to include with your documents. You will need to be able to answer the questions in this article whether you draft just a will or you also include a trust.
Finally, there are a lot of things for your loved ones to understand, often before they can even begin to address your will. When organizing your estate plans, consider completing our “Planning Guide for Survivors.” It is a fillable form that can be updated to include important information like accounts, beneficiary names, and key contact names.
As always, please consult your estate planning attorney, accountant, and financial advisor before making any changes to your plans.
A special thanks to one of our clients for inspiring this article. We hope you find it as helpful in your planning as he does.