Steps To Take To Prepare For Estate Planning

At Birk Law Firm, we recently changed our procedures for estate planning and we usually complete each estate planning project within two weeks from the initial meeting with you, the client.

We did not do this previously, but we found it is better for you and us to complete the documents while the information we discussed is still fresh on all our minds.

Most, but not all, of our estate planning clients only need to meet with us twice to complete their estate planning; being the first meeting to gather information and discuss your goals and concerns, and the second meeting to review all the documents in detail and sign the documents.  Each of these meetings typically take one to two hours.

If you are able to prepare ahead of time and gather certain documents and other information, you can get the most out of the initial meeting with your estate planning attorney. This information will be helpful for your estate planning attorney to better advise you on the most effective estate plan customized for you.

We do not require that you bring or prepare any of the documents below to your initial meeting with us.  However, we find it helpful for you and us if you have these documents or have at least thought about them ahead of time so we can spend our time on the more important matter of developing your estate plan.  Also, you have more time to think about these items ahead of time instead of during a meeting.

Documents to Prepare or Find to Provide to your Estate Planning Attorney

Your family. This is quick and easy for people with a small family.  However, individuals with complex family situations will find it beneficial to outline this information ahead of time, often seeking guidance on family law matters. Deciding who will be the beneficiaries of your trust or estate is crucial.  Typically, this will be your children or grandchildren if you have them, but sometimes people decide on a different path for some or all of the assets.

Your assets. It is helpful to have an inventory of your significant assets, such as your investment accounts, farms, business interests, vehicles, IRAs, and other retirement accounts, insurance policies related to auto accident insurance claims, bank accounts, etc., with approximate values and balances.  At this time, we are not interested in knowing the exact balances, but approximate balances are needed. Knowing the types and amounts of your assets is key to developing your estate plan and planning for them now and for their later distribution. We will almost always need a copy of any General Warranty Deeds or other deeds that you received when you purchased real estate that you own.

Your liabilities. It is helpful if you make a list each significant liability and estimate the total of small liabilities.  Again, we are not interested in knowing the exact balances, but approximate balances are needed. Usually we don’t need documentation of the liabilities, but knowing the types and amounts of your liabilities is necessary to most effectively develop your customized estate plan.

Fiduciaries. Your fiduciaries are the individuals or entities that are your successors who will help carry out your plans. We’re talking about trustees for Trusts, guardians for minor children, agents for Powers of Attorney, authorized representatives for health care information, and personal representatives for Wills. Different individuals may be best suited for different roles within your plan. Sometimes one person or entity is appointed Trustee for one purpose and another for another purpose.  Sometimes one person is chosen as the agent for your property Power of Attorney and another person is chosen as the agent for your Health Care Power of Attorney. We can also consider a Trust Protector. Always consider successors if your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve. Some people discuss this with the chosen fiduciaries while other people do not discuss it. In our experience, either way works.

Questions. Asset protection planning can be intimidating for those who have never done it before. So, think about your biggest concerns ahead of time, and write down any specific questions you have for your attorney. Having a list of questions prepared can help you ensure that you get the answers you need as you proceed.

What Else Should I Do?  Oh yeah, hire an attorney that is an expert in estate planning.  A lot of attorneys will prepare Wills and try to fit your situation into what they know. They might even prepare a cookie-cutter living trust that is the same as their last client except for the names.  At Birk Law Firm, we meet with you and develop a customized estate plan that meets your specific situation and goals.  You may only need a simple Will, or you may need multiple trusts of varying types. We will develop and help you implement a plan that is most advantageous for you now and in the future, and for your beneficiaries.


Why Choose Birk Law?

Birk Law Firm is a small firm by choice that is big on client services. Attorney Kelvin Birk and his team are responsive to their clients’ needs. When we sign on as your law firm, you can count on us for strong legal counsel, from negotiations to settlement to trial.

Cape Girardeau Law Firm Kelvin BirkOur clients benefit from the intertwining of Kelvin Birk’s legal and CPA background and experience. We provide well-rounded advice to solve both legal and financial issues and to come up with creative solutions. We use modern technology to deliver legal services in a more efficient and client-focused manner than was previously possible.

We provide personalized and compassionate service. We believe that each client’s matter is the most important matter in the world to them, and we strive to treat it that way.


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