While every adult should have a will, most people don’t get started with theirs until something makes them start to consider their own mortality. Maybe you just got married and worry about your spouse. Maybe you recently had your first child. Maybe you’re in a high-risk occupation or are just getting older.
Whatever the reason, you need to do a little prep work before you begin. Here’s a quick checklist that can help you get ready for your first meeting with an attorney about your estate plans:
Who are your heirs? Your heirs can be just about anybody or entity that you name, so think about children, siblings, parents and friends. You can also leave some of your assets to charities.
Who can serve as the executor? Someone has to be in charge of paying your final bills, filling out the final tax forms and distributing your estate to your heirs. You may need a backup, too, just in case something prevents your first choice from serving.
Do you have dependents who need protection? Whether you have minor children, an adult child with a disability or you have been placed in charge of the care of a family member with an intellectual disorder, your will should specify who will step in and make decisions in your place.
What kind of assets do you have? You need a list of all your investments, real estate holdings, pension plans, insurance policies and valuables. That will help you decide how things should be divided.
Who do you trust with your money and your health? Powers of attorney for medical decisions and financial issues are part of a good estate plan. If you can’t act on your own behalf, who do you want to act for you?
Crafting a will and other estate planning documents isn’t something that you want to try to handle on your own. It’s far too easy to make a critical mistake. Make your list and then talk to an experienced attorney about your goals.