Preparing for Your Estate Planning Meeting: What You Need to Know

Preparing for Your Estate Planning Meeting: What You Need to Know

Understanding the Estate Planning Process

Everyone has an estate of some sort and should have an estate plan. It is not just for high-net-worth individuals.

An estate plan details how your assets will be distributed and who will care for your minor or disabled children in the event you become disabled or when you pass away. The planning process includes reviewing your personal and financial picture and developing appropriate legal documents.

Then, of course, there is the implementation phase. Depending on your circumstances, this phase also plans for these additional considerations:

  • Long-term healthcare costs
  • Business succession
  • Asset creditor protection
  • The welfare of your spouse, children, and/or parent(s)
  • Estate, gift, or generation-skipping transfer taxes

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Distributing Your Assets

Start thinking about how you want your assets distributed (are there any special needs?) and who you might name as a guardian for your children, personal representative for your estate, trustee for any trust, and agent for finances and health care if you are unable to act for yourself. You should be thinking about at least one alternate for each role.

Assemble Your Advisory Team

Creating an advisory team that works together with your goals in mind is the most holistic way to start your estate planning. The team will work together, each bringing their own expertise.

The team should consist of:

  • Accountant
  • Legal counsel
  • Insurance agent
  • Wealth manager

If you own a business, you should add your business attorney and valuation expert to the planning team.

Once the team quarterback meets with you to discuss your goals, they will work with you and the other team members to develop a plan that considers all legal and financial solutions. The plan will be implemented and monitored so revisions can be made if your needs or goals change.

How the Team Approach Helps During Estate Planning

  • The team should meet your family so they might have peace of mind and know your plans and wishes. This also provides continuity if you become disabled and after you pass away.
  • Your advisors will provide trust, estate, gift, investment advisory, and income tax planning to give you the best tax-advantaged solutions.
  • If you own a business, your advisory team will determine business value and project the cash flow available pre- and post-transition.

Don’t rely on just one advisor. Having a team with individual and specific expertise will give you the best overall plan.

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What to Bring to an Estate Planning Meeting

To help your team understand the picture of your assets and liabilities, gather the following documents, as applicable, to bring to the initial consultation. This list will get you started, but also ask your advisors if there are other items they would like you to bring along.

  • Family Information: Dates of birth, citizenship, names and contact information, health concerns, expected inheritances
  • All Advisor Contact Information
  • Income Tax Return
  • Divorce Judgement
  • Property Settlements
  • Custody Agreements
  • Marital Property Agreements
  • Pre-nuptial Agreements
  • Trust Documents
  • Gift Tax Returns
  • Current Will
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Health Care Powers of Attorney
  • Deeds to Real Estate
  • Tax Statements for Real Estate

  • Current Statements for all Investment and Bank Accounts
  • Statements of any Monies Owed to You
  • Debt Summaries from Loans, Mortgages, and Credit Cards
  • Life Insurance and Annuity Policies
  • Current Statements and Beneficiary Designations for Employee Benefit Plans and IRAs
  • Buy-Sell Agreements for Closely Held Businesses
  • Organizational Documents for Businesses
  • Appraisals of Personal Property and Intellectual Property
  • Titles to all Vehicles
  • List and Contents of Safe Deposit Boxes
  • List of all Club Memberships
  • Long-Term Care Insurance Policies

You should also consider digital assets, which is an evolving area. Start by compiling a list of your digital assets such as social media accounts, websites, email addresses, etc. The list should include access information including web addresses, user names, and passwords.

Also note any automatic payments related to these accounts so that a personal representative or trustee can ensure they are either paid or canceled.

Get Started Now

It is never too early to start your estate planning. Plans can be modified as your life changes and estate plans are meant to be reviewed often to make sure they are still reflective of your current needs.

Estate planning is more than just planning to reduce taxes. It provides for your loved ones after you are gone and ensures your assets are passed along according to your wishes.

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Biz Tip Topic Expert: Richard Kollauf - JD, CPA, CFP, AEP

Richard Kollauf - JD, CPA, CFP, AEP

Richard is a Principal for SVA Certified Public Accountants and has more than 35 years of experience working in financial, accounting, and legal operations. Richard’s expertise in the multi-faceted financial environment includes business succession planning, tax, investments, finance, mergers and acquisitions, estate planning, and trust administration. He also has experience in estate planning and distribution for complex operational and investment multi-state businesses. Richard provides income tax consulting services to closely-held and family-owned businesses, as well as high net worth individuals.

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