I have been considering getting an estate plan prepared but I do not know where to start. I do not know who to name as my trustee or executor. I am unsure of who I want to make health care decisions on my behalf. I do not know how I want my assets distributed upon my death. There is no way I can get started without this information, so I will continue to put it off.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Often these questions can be difficult to answer, but it should not be a roadblock to your estate planning process. Estate planning is just that– a process. It begins with the realization that an estate plan is necessary. That realization should come to everyone at some point in their lifetime. An estate plan consists of a comprehensive set of legal documents that provide for decision making ability in the event that you become disabled or upon your death for effective management of your assets, your healthcare situation, and final distribution of your assets. Those documents include a Property Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living will, HIPAA Authorization, Last Will and Testament and Living Trust. Once the decision is made that it is time to begin the estate planning process, the next step is to consult with an estate planning attorney.
You will not need the answers to all of the questions that attorney will ask you right away, in fact most people do not. After an estate planning consultation, the attorney and client will then engage in an information gathering stage. It is at this point that the attorney will serve as a guide and counsel the client as to different options, suggestions, and recommendations. Ultimately, every family situation is unique and there are no right or wrong answers.
Even though the questions may be difficult and you may not know the answers right away, that does not mean that you cannot engage in the process. By engaging in the process and meeting with a qualified estate planning attorney, you will be able to find direction and develop answers to those difficult questions to ensure that you and your family are protected.