When scheduling first appointments, a question I frequently hear is “Why is the Estate Planning Questionnaire so long?”. The simple answer is that it is all very important information that impacts the route you take for your estate planning. It gives us the information we need to get you started and is also a great document to refer to down the road if you make updates or changes to your plan.
Estate planning is a process. It’s not about a document. As the term implies, it’s about designing a plan to direct and control your assets in the event of your incapacity and after you die. How that plan is constructed will depend in large part on three things:
– the people you want to benefit in some way (and in some cases, those you prefer to exclude);
-the nature, type and amount of your assets and how those assets are currently owned; and
-your specific goals and priorities (tax efficiency, concern for minor children, fear of divorce, etc.)
Without complete, accurate information, the plan may not be appropriate to accomplish your goals. When filling out the Questionnaire, some clients feel that certain information is irrelevant and should be skipped over. But the reason it is on the form is because it is very pertinent information to ensure the estate planning process to run smoothly and efficiently for everyone.
Why do you need to know who my parents and siblings are if I do not want anything to go to them?
When you die, there are two groups of people entitled to notice that your will has been filed with the Probate Court: the beneficiaries listed in the will, and your legal heirs (those that would inherit if you had no will.) It can be very difficult to locate this information after you are gone, so having a record of your complete family tree is important. Sometimes people who will not be beneficiaries themselves may be suitable choices to serve in fiduciary positions like Executor or Trustee. Also, if there is potential for conflict after your death, having information about who may create that conflict is important.
I want to leave EVERYTHING to my spouse, so why does it matter what specifically I own?
Different types of assets are subject to different rules regarding transfer after death. Some assets, like IRAs and 401(k) accounts, carry income tax consequences for the beneficiary. If the overall value of your estate exceeds certain limits, your estate may be subject to estate tax. Understanding the specifics of what you own will enable us to assist you in making informed decisions.