What is Estate Planning?

The basics of estate planning is a two-part process.  The first part is to ensure that in the event of your serious disability, you continue to maintain control of your assets and health care treatment decisions.

The second part is making certain that your assets pass to your loved ones with ease, upon your death.  That means without the need for probate or the payment of large amounts of taxes.


12 Step Estate Planning Checklist

Get the Help you Need

Proper estate planning is not done in a vacuum.  You need the help of an attorney and your trusted advisors.  Retain the services of a qualified estate planning attorney in your area.  The attorney is part of your team, along with your accountant and your financial advisor, if you have them.  Don’t try to do these documents yourself!  It is a complicated process and you won’t even know the mistakes you will make.  Never be afraid to ask for help.


People forget that estate planning is about you FIRST!  Not just about your heirs or loved ones. The most difficult in your life is when you are unable to take care of yourself.  No one ever thinks it will happen to them, but it happens to vast majority of people as they get older.  The best time to plan is before the problem hits.  That way you can make the best choices possible because you are healthy, and your mind is clear.

If you prepare your estate planning during a serious illness, it will take longer, and you may not be aware that your decision making is faulty.  This will hurt you and your loved ones even more.


Information you need to Bring

The most important information you need to provide to the attorney is the correct contact information for yourself and all your loved ones.  In these days of HIPAA and Real ID requirements, you need to make a list of the following information:

  • All legal names, either on your driver’s license, state identification or passport.
  • Dates of Birth
  • Relationship-Is this person a relative, or a friend
  • Cell phone number
  • Email address
  • Street Address

Think about what you would like to do if you become very ill.  Think about what you would like to do if you die.  Only look forward from today to the next five years.  Life happens and things change.  Estate planning is a process which needs to work today.  A good estate planning attorney will discuss your decisions and help you make up your mind.


Your Assets

Estate planning is not about what your assets, or what you own.  The attorney will you ask you about your assets in general terms.  The specifics are only important if you are very wealthy.  Very wealthy today means you have millions of dollars in assets and investments.  It is the attorney’s job to teach you how to get control of your assets, first, if you become disabled and second, after your death. 

The worst-case scenario to your estate planning attorney is a serious illness where no one is able to pay your bills for you, or even talk about managing your investments.  Your money is yours!

Meeting with the Attorney

A good estate planning attorney will meet with you many times and will educate you about this the basics of estate planning and this process.  The attorney will help you to prepare the documents you need in the event of your disability as well as your death.  In the beginning of this process you are in control of everything.  Over time, the documents need to be flexible enough to work no matter what happens in your life.

Your Documents

A good estate planning attorney will review your documents with you several times to make certain that you understand in general terms what the documents say and do.  The attorney will also make certain that the assets take care of you and your loved ones while you are alive as well as after you are gone. It is not a good practice to speak with an attorney once, and then come back a week later to sign a pile of paperwork.  That is not estate planning.  That is DocuPrep.