Each case is different but typically people come in if they don’t have a will and we have them complete a comprehensive fact sheet which lays out a summary of their financial assets, real estate and life insurance, as well as anything that the people may own separately, if the estate plan if for spouses. We also have them summarize any liabilities they may have.
We ask them to also include relevant information regarding their family structure, who their children are, their children’s wives, their grandchildren, and their parents. This gives us a good snapshot of the family structure as well as their financial information.
Then we ask them to list in the fact sheet what their goals are and what they actually want to have happen upon passing, so that we can structure the will appropriately. Then, we’ll have them come in for a conference and delve into what they’ve told us in this fact sheet after we meet and develop a plan.
We have three documents. Two of them have legal life while they’re alive — a financial power of attorney and an advanced directive for healthcare, also commonly known as a living will. The living will gives the power and authority to someone else to make medical decisions in various circumstances if the person is unable to make decisions for themselves. It also deals with end of life situations. These two documents have meaning and impact while the people are alive.
The third document is the last will and testament, which only comes into legal life after someone passes away. At the moment of death, the living will and the power of attorney evaporate and no longer have any legal significance.
Those three documents are the typical estate planning documents, often supplemented with a living trust and other documents such as a Qualified Personal Residence Trust or an irrevocable life insurance trust depending on the particular needs of the clients.