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Prepare to Meet Your Lawyer: The Uncomfortable Estate Planning Questions

For many, estate planning feels uncomfortable it forces us to acknowledge human limits; that we may become incapacitated mentally or physically; who gets what after we pass away; and what provisions we want taken for end of life care.

Facing mortality is one of the hardest things we must do in life, but meeting with a lawyer to begin your estate planning early is an important step to your personal security later in life.

Thinking about the following issues in advance of your meeting can help you prepare logistically and emotionally.

Who will raise your children if both parents die?

Failing to name a guardian in your will or estate plan could mean the courts will do it for you. Of course, they will do so based on what it believes to be in the best interest of your child. However, it’s best not to wait 18 years to have a plan B for your kids.

What if you all die in a common disaster?

With families living farther away from each other, it is terribly unlikely that an entire family and all its descendants would die at once. However, even if you are certain about where you want your estate to go, you need to address this issue. For most clients, the natural answer is “my children,” followed by “my parents,” “my siblings,” or a particular charity. Sort this question out ahead of your meeting to avoid some squirming with this uncomfortable question.

Have you told me about all the important relationships in your life?

Whether you are married or single, your lawyer may ask if you are in a relationship with someone and if it has legal status. There may be legal obligations that come with these relationships that you and that party need to know. This question may include your past relationship history; previous divorce, other descendants you may have not yet mentioned, etc.

Do you have genetic material on ice?

This may seem like a question for the sci-fi crowd, but it is also pertinent to the previous statements about other descendants. It is critical to consider whether you want to provide for beneficiaries conceived after your death. And if you do, for how many years do you want to leave the window open for that birth to take place? There are legal and logistical limits, but this is one area that should be openly discussed with your estate planner.

Who is going to take care of your pets?

There are now pet trusts available to ensure care for your pet after you pass. Or you may just need to set aside sufficient funds to be put in trustworthy hands in order to take care of Fido. Note the life expectancy of your animals, as with longer life comes longer responsibilities.

What are your passwords, user names, and security questions?

In recent years, we’ve become more accustomed to worrying about our digital life. Your email, Facebook, and other accounts will go dormant, but websites, blogs, and cloud storage lives on. Your lawyer can help you figure out what needs to be preserved, what can be left to lapse, and who should be able to access your various accounts. Pick the options that you are most comfortable with for now and be aware this digital life can change continually.

When do you want to pull the plug?

You lawyer will almost always ask you to sign a health care directive. This stipulates nutrition, hydration, and medication administered if you are in the hospital or in long-term care. This is a good time to do a little soul-searching. Under what circumstances would you consider your own quality of life has diminished too far. It is helpful to share this information with your health care agent should that person need to carry out your instructions.

Prepare and bring with you all this information, an informal personal financial statement, and any questions you may want to ask as you begin your estate plan. At the Law Offices of Andrew Dósa, we strive to make estate planning painless to help implement your wishes and trusts to best suit your needs. Visit us online today for more information: http://www.dosalaw.com/practice-areas/estate-planning/

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