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Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Preparing to Meet with Our Estate Planning Team

If you surveyed the country, you would probably find more people who would like to have a root canal without anesthesia than would like to talk about, or even think about, their end of life plans. Nobody likes to think about death. We get it. That’s why we at Berge & Berge LLP ask our clients to do some information gathering and soul-searching before they come into our offices for their first meeting -- it significantly cuts down the amount of time they have to spend sitting in our office thinking and talking about death.

If possible, you should gather the following information before your first meeting with our estate planning team.

Past Estate Planning Documents

If you have had an estate plan done in the past, please bring a copy of that plan to the meeting. We will discuss what changes you would like to make, and make sure that the new plan we make is the one that is followed after you die.

Family Information

You should have the following family information available when you come in for an estate planning consultation:

  • Full names, birth dates, and contact information for all immediate family members
  • Name and contact information of the person you want designated guardian of any minor children, and perhaps an alternate if that person has passed or is incapacitated  at the time of your death
  • Any pertinent information about ex-spouse(s)
  •  Medical or other pertinent information about any family  members with special needs

* FYI - If you have a child that your spouse doesn’t know about, we are not going to be able to keep your secret for you

Financial Information

A major part of estate planning involves your asset distribution, so you must bring the following financial documents to an estate planning consultation:

  • List of all financial accounts: checking accounts, savings accounts, investments, retirement or pension plans, etc.
  • Social Security account information and most current statement

(If you haven't already done so, register with the Social Security Administration before making an estate planning appointment, since we need to be able to access information about your projected Social Security benefits)

  • Do you have a life insurance policy? If so, bring it in with you.
  • If any of your accounts are “payable on death” bring that information in.
  • Information about significant debts you owe, or that are owed to you, should be gathered as well.
  • A good starting place for gathering this information is pulling out your last few tax returns.

Property Information

  • Make a list of any properties you own or have an interest in. If you only have the addresses, that is okay, but if you have the legal property description and a copy of the most recent tax assessment that is even better.
  • Are any of the properties mortgaged or otherwise encumbered?
  • Are there any specific items of personal property that you have special plans for? Personal property includes things like jewelry, coins, arts, antiques, or vehicles. If you have specific items that you want to pass on to specific people or organizations, make a list of the items that includes information about the items location, full names and contact information of the persons or organizations you would like to pass each item to, and a precise description of the item. You might even consider taking a picture of each item with your smart phone or a camera and bringing those photos along with you.

Business Information

  • If you own all or part of a business, please bring along information about the business(es), including business addresses, tax id numbers, the past few years of tax returns, and any documents specifying your ownership interest.

Other Information

  • Are there any organizations (like a church, charity, or college) you want to leave a donation to? If so, we’ll need their name, address, and contact information.
  • Who do you want to be in charge to carrying out your plan? Think of a couple different people, and gather their names, addresses, and contact info.

We know this is a lot of stuff to throw at you, and that you probably don’t have all the information on this list at your fingertips. Don’t let this discourage you from setting up an estate planning appointment! Our estate planning experts will make the estate planning process as painless for you as possible. Contact Berge & Berge LLP today to schedule your first estate planning meeting.



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