As you grow older and approach retirement, you also gain plenty of new family members in the form of grandchildren, in-laws, nephews, nieces, and more. You now realize that you need an estate plan in place so that you can leave behind an inheritance for all of your heirs. You also want to manage your assets, reduce your tax liability, and properly divide your estate among surviving family members.
We know another reason you need to have an estate plan in place – you don’t want to catch your family off-guard with an untimely death. That being said, you should take yourself through an estate plan questionnaire with these five crucial questions before consulting with an estate planning attorney in San Diego.
Estate Plan Questionnaire Item #1 – What assets do you own?
Are you aware of everything you own? This is a question that should always be a part of your estate plan questionnaire. This can include everything from bank accounts to retirement funds to private equity. Ultimately, your assets will fall into two different categories: tangible and non-tangible assets. Your estate planning attorney will ask you about anything that’s in your name, such as real estate, businesses, digital assets, life insurance policies, and more. Getting a clean understanding of everything you’re planning around is a crucial first step and key when it comes to answering further estate planning questions.
Estate Plan Questionnaire Item #2 – Who do you want to be your trustee/executor?
The trustee/executor is the person who’ll administer and settle your estate after you pass away. One of the estate planning mistakes that could wreak havoc after you pass away is choosing the wrong person for this role. You should always select someone who is level headed, is well-organized, and is trustworthy. Your trustee will be able to have legal counsel assist them through the process, so they don’t have to have a legal background, although it could be handy. Most people name a family member to be their trustee or executor, but if you don’t have this trusted person to lean on you can also consider a trusted professional, such as a professional fiduciary. Remember, this is the person who’ll faithfully carry out your wishes after you die, so be sure to put time into thinking through this nomination.
Estate Plan Questionnaire Item #3 – Should you create a trust?
It’s possible that you may have heard different myths and facts about living trusts. However, the answer to this question depends on the assets you want to leave behind for your beneficiaries and what your wishes are for how those assets are to pass. Creating a trust ensures that assets transfer to your heirs without any interference from the court system if your estate is over the Probate threshold. For many families a trust can save years of time in court and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Trusts also allow you to maintain a certain level of privacy and control over assets, and they can also provide creditor protection to your heirs if drafted properly.
Estate Plan Questionnaire Item #4 – What are your healthcare wishes?
What if you were to become ill and unable to take care of yourself? When creating your estate plan, you can determine how you receive medical treatment and appoint your trusted individuals to make these decisions for you if you ever cannot do so independently through adding a medical power of attorney in your estate planning. For example, you can make decisions on living at home as long as possible versus in a facility, direct how treatment should be handled with various diagnosis, and determine what decisions should be made around key health events. (You should also consider looking into available long-term health insurance plans.)
Estate Plan Questionnaire Item #5 – Should you tell your family about your plan?
It’s important to remember you can set up an estate plan at any time in your life. Depending on your current age and medical condition, you should undoubtedly consider informing family members about your plan. At very least, make sure that they know about the existence of a plan and that they’ll be able to locate your estate planning documents if ever needed. Also, make them aware of how you will manage and distribute your assets if you are comfortable discussing it. Ask them if they’re comfortable with these arrangements and if they want to discuss their role in your estate plan. While we don’t give much credit to their thoughts or approval on how things should be divided (it is your estate, after all), having the discussion while alive can help to avoid disputes when you are no longer here.
Never Wait to Develop Your Own Estate Plan Questionnaire and Plan Your Estate
The benefits of having an estate plan are undeniable and developing your own estate plan questionnaire can help you to feel more comfortable with the estate planning process. Here at Jenkins & Jenkins in San Diego, our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to expertly plan your estate. We serve many different clients who want to help protect their families and have peace of mind knowing that their assets are secure. Time never stops ticking – schedule an appointment with us today, and we can help you get the process started.
Testimonial from Scott, Estate Planning Client in San Diego
For years my wife and I have been meaning to get to our estate planning. With each year that passed, promising each other that we would get to it. We finally found Jenkins & Jenkins and we are so happy we did. Michael and Caroline helped us with our estate plan, living trust, and powers of attorney. All of our questions were answered and our minds were put at ease with Michael’s wealth of knowledge. Our only wish is we would have found them sooner! Don’t wait like my wife and I, take comfort in knowing your future is secure with Jenkins & Jenkins.