If you’re like many of the people who have finally gotten around to making an estate planning meeting with a New York trusts attorney, chances are that you might have more than a little hesitation about it all. After all, most of us are accustomed to guarding details about our financial lives, and it can be a real challenge for the average person to break that habit. You may even have doubts about how the meeting will go or what your new lawyer might expect from you. The fact is that preparing to meet your trusts attorney for the first time doesn’t have to be stressful. Just follow these simple guidelines and you should be fine.
Do Your Homework
Part of the angst that so many people feel about this process comes from the general sense of being afraid that questions will arise that you cannot answer. One of the easiest ways to assuage those fears is to do a little homework prior to your meeting. The fact is that most of us have a very shallow understanding of our own financial picture. Do you know your net worth right off the top of your head? How about your total debt? Take some times and write all of those things down before you ever meet with your attorney.
The simplest way to do that is to create a balance sheet that you can bring with you to the appointment. This document should include a careful and detailed list of all of your assets – and yes, I mean all of them, along with a similar detailed list of your debts. Include real estate, financial accounts, vehicles, art collections, jewelry, and everything else that you can think of that has real value. That balance sheet will help your attorney figure out your actual net worth so that she can give you the best advice available.
Gather Essential Documents
Beyond that simple homework that you need to do, you also need to collect copies of all of the important documents related to your financial situation. Bank documents, stocks that you own, real estate deeds, tax information, and other important written records can all be vital for helping your attorney to not only understand where your finances stand right now, but also where they have been and where they are likely to go.
Obviously, any other estate planning documents that you currently have need to be brought as well. Have you drafted your own will or used a trust form downloaded from the internet? Bring them with you! The fact is that even an old estate plan needs to be reviewed to ensure that it is set up properly and designed to accomplish your goals. That is even truer with any do-it-yourself plan, since those form documents are seldom adequate for protecting an individual’s unique needs. More importantly, however, you should never engage in any separate planning without including prior planning efforts in your calculations. Otherwise, you could end up with conflicting plan provisions, and a whole new set of headaches later on.
Develop a Rough Set of Goals
Do you have a purpose for all of your estate planning? Are you trying to accomplish any one thing in particular, or do you just want to have some general plan in place to ensure that your estate is easily settled when you die? You don’t have to know every detail about what you hope to achieve, but you certainly need to have some general sense of those goals. Without them, your attorney could spend the entire meeting trying to coax objectives out of you. With some rough sense of your goals in hand, the two of you can instead spend your time deciding on the best way to being to realize them.
Be Honest and Forthcoming with Your Lawyer
This is the really difficult challenge for many clients: being open and transparent with an attorney. Sometimes, it seems like we are all just programmed to avoid telling lawyers anything more than the basics. That’s a mistake. The fact is that your attorney wants to help with your estate planning, but that requires transparent honesty and a willingness to share details that you may be reluctant to divulge.
So, be prepared to provide not only financial information, but information about your wife, children, and anyone else you might want to name as a trust beneficiary. If you’ve been married before, it is best to get those details to your attorney as well so that she knows about any prior agreements you may have with your ex-spouse, as well as information about children that you may have had together. In short, work to be as transparent as possible so that your lawyer can help you to develop an estate plan and trust that leaves no stone unturned.
If You’re Uncomfortable, Get a New Attorney
Let’s be honest here: personalities sometimes clash. Sometimes, clients might feel uncomfortable with certain attorneys. In many instances, they cannot even explain their discomfort, as they may not themselves understand their unease. There is no shame in recognizing that you are uncomfortable working with a certain person. In fact, if you don’t feel comfortable being transparent with any given attorney, your best option is to find another lawyer to assist you. Remember, your attorney is a professional and won’t feel slighted because you take your estate planning needs elsewhere.
Obviously, your estate plan is an important element in your effort to safeguard your future and secure a lasting legacy. That effort can only be accomplished the right way in consultation with a professional estate planning attorney who understands the importance of setting up trusts properly and ensuring that they are fully funded to meet your goals. Preparing for that first meeting with any attorney can be stressful, but these basic and essential tips can help to reduce that stress. If you’d like to learn more about how you can better prepare for your meeting with a New York trusts attorney or learn about any other issues related to estate planning and trusts, contact the Law Offices of Mary A. Miller, P.C. online or call us at (914) 939-6565 today.