It’s a common misconception that only the wealthy elite have estates, but “estate” simply refers to the assets you’ve accumulated during your lifetime. This could include a family home or other real estate, money in the bank, retirement accounts, an investment portfolio, and life insurance policies, among other assets.
You’d probably like to ensure that your estate is passed along to loved ones following your death. Maybe you prefer to avoid probate and minimize taxation or simply want to make your final wishes known.
Estate planning is one solution to explore. This comprehensive and customizable process can help you protect your assets and provide for your family when you’re no longer there.
While your attorney will do most of the work for you, you’ll still need to provide information about your estate. You can prepare by compiling a range of documents to bring along when you meet with your estate planning attorney. What should you include?
Proof of Identity
Before any legal structures can be created, you must prove you are who you say you are. Such documents could include a birth certificate and Social Security card. You may also be asked to provide documents related to marriage or divorce, as well as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements that could impact your ability to designate beneficiaries.
An Accounting of Your Assets and Debts
Your estate is defined by both your assets and debts. What you owe will presumably be deducted from your assets in payment at some point, so accounting for debt can be just as important as assets during the planning process. This could depend on the type of estate planning you choose — trust structures protect assets for beneficiaries — but you’ll have to discuss options with your estate planning attorney.
When you meet with your attorney, you should provide current documents for the following:
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Debts like a mortgage, other loans, and credit card statements
You’ll also need to bring deeds for property you own, such as real estate and vehicles. You may need to provide an accounting of other tangible assets like jewelry, artwork, and collectibles.
End-of-Life and Other Legal Documents
It’s not unusual to engage in end-of-life planning piecemeal, before opting for comprehensive estate planning. When you meet with your estate planner, you should provide copies of any existing legal documents, such as:
- Last will and testament
- Business documents/agreements
- Divorce agreements
It’s also a good idea to provide an advance directive or durable power of attorney that details your wishes should you become incapacitated and incapable of making financial, legal, and health decisions.
These may already be included in other documents. For example, retirement accounts and life insurance policies often require you to provide the name of a beneficiary.
During the estate planning process, you may decide to change beneficiaries or create structures like trusts that consolidate assets. Your attorney must understand the beneficiary designations you already have in place in case adjustments need to be made.
A Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney Can Provide Guidance
When it comes to end-of-life planning, working with an estate planning lawyer can help ensure your wishes are met. It offers a comprehensive solution for anyone who wants to pass along a range of assets (property, investments, retirement accounts, etc.) and can help you avoid unwanted probate, taxation, and contention among remaining family members.
All you have to do to get started is provide your attorney with the right documents. If you’re a resident of Prairieville or South Baton Rouge interested in learning more about estate planning, contact a qualified estate planning attorney from Kallio Law Firm, LLC today.