When the Need is Trusts & Estates

DO YOU NEED TO SEE A TRUSTS & ESTATES ATTORNEY?

  1. Are you without a Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, or Living Will?
  2. Are any documents (including trusts) NOT up to date? Is any designated executor, guardian for underage children, power of attorney, health care proxy, or trustee no longer willing or able to take on that responsibility?  Are you lacking back-up people designated in your documents in case the primary person is unavailable?
  3. Have there been changes in your circumstances that might affect your will? For example: marriage, children grown, estrangements, assets have increased, a need to equalize assets among beneficiaries (some have earned way more than others, others are no longer alive), your physical health is declining.

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, make an appointment to see an attorney.

PREPARING TO SEE YOUR ATTORNEY

  • Make a family tree (begin with your parents' parents and go down to your youngest descendants). Your executor may need to contact beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries per instructions from an attorney or the court.
  • Consider what people and what institutions you want as beneficiaries and who should be executor, trustee, guardian, power of attorney, health care proxy and who should be appointed as back-up designees for each.
  • Make a list of all your assets, where they are kept, contact names and phone numbers.
  • Think about what you want in your living will, so it will reflect your current wishes about what care you want, or don’t want, at the end of life when you cannot make your own decisions.

This information will help in your conversation with your attorney.

ONCE YOUR WILL AND TRUST DOCUMENTS ARE COMPLETED

  • Keep originals with your attorney, or in a fireproof cabinet, but not in a bank's safe deposit box because your executor will not have easy access to the box.
  • Make sure your designated representatives have copies where appropriate and know where to find the originals.
  • Close any safe deposit boxes you no longer use. The process of getting access to them is time consuming for the power of attorney or executor.
  • With guidance from your attorney, consider consolidating accounts, putting all stock certificates with a financial advisor, and streamlining as much as possible.  This will make it easier for you, your power of attorney, and your executor.
  • When appropriate, make sure that all financial institutions are told about your Power of Attorney document and that the institutions’ internal forms are filled out.
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