Let’s assume you have decided to review and update your estate plan. Your next step is to talk with your attorney. He or she will begin by asking a series of questions about you, your family, the nature and size of your estate, and how you want your estate to be divided.
Your attorney will depend on full disclosure by you so the best options can be determined to carry out your wishes, meet your beneficiaries’ needs, protect your estate, and keep your estate taxes as low as possible.
How to Prepare
You can save time if you organize needed information and analyze your estate before meeting with your attorney. To help you do this, we have assembled an inventory, a checklist and a questionnaire.
Begin by determining what your estate is really worth. If you are married, be sure to include your spouse’s assets and, of course, all jointly owned assets. Use the current market value for everything you own and the face value of any life insurance.
The inventory included here is an easy way to list your figures. Don’t strive for exact amounts; round numbers will do.
Checklist for Estate Planning
Now you are ready to gather other information that is helpful in estate planning.
- Names, addresses and birth dates for you, your spouse, your children, your mother and father, and your sisters and brothers. Note any adopted children.
- The location of your birth certificate and, if you have one, your veteran’s discharge certificate.
- The state of your legal residence. Be sure to give your attorney all of the particulars if you have a home in another state.
- If you have been married previously, your deceased or former spouses’ name. If you are divorced or separated, let your attorney examine any documents that would help determine if your former spouse has remaining inheritance rights.
- A copy of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
- Note any physical or mental disabilities or marital problems of your beneficiaries, as well as money-management concerns.
- A copy of any prior will or trust agreement and its location.
- The location of any gift tax returns.
- Details about your employment benefits, such as an employment contract, group life insurance, stock purchase plan, stock options, and IRA and retirement benefits, including information on the named beneficiary for each plan.
- Details on annuities and life insurance policies: insured, owner, beneficiary, policy numbers, companies, face amounts, and policy loans.
- A listing of real estate: location, improvements, title, value, mortgages, and the location of papers.
- Details about business interests: estimated values, proportions owned by you and by others, and a copy of any buy-sell agreements.
- The nature and value of any potential inheritances.
- The nature and value of royalties and/or patents owned by you.
- A copy of any power of attorney given by you.
- The nature of any premade funeral arrangements.
- Any records distinguishing community property from non-community property, if applicable.
Questions About Dividing Your Estate
Here are some typical questions your attorney is likely to ask.
- After your lifetime, how and to whom do you want your estate distributed?
- If you and your spouse die before your children are old enough to manage large amounts of money, who should be the trustee of their money? Who should be their guardian while they are minors?
- How do you want your investments managed after your lifetime? Should your spouse manage them? If not, from whom should your spouse seek help? Have you thought about trusts?
- Do you want to minimize estate and income taxes? Do you know how a trust can save taxes?
- If you are not survived by a spouse or children, do you want to benefit other relatives?
- Are there charitable organizations you would like to help?
Choose Your Executor & Trustee
In your estate plan, you choose someone to carry out your wishes knowledgeably and reliably. In your will, you name your executor (personal representative) to settle your estate. When you create a trust, you choose a trustee to manage the trust investments for your beneficiaries.
These are crucial decisions, and you should carefully weigh the heavy responsibilities your executor or trustee must assume. For example, does your proposed executor or trustee know how to manage investments, save taxes and make reports? If you choose an individual, can you be certain of that person’s long-term health and availability? Will the person you choose be fair and impartial when dealing with your beneficiaries?
If you think you may decide to name a corporate executor or trustee, now would be a good time to schedule a visit with that person.
Explore Charitable Giving Options
Do you want to help shape the future of an important charitable organization, such as Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints Foundation, after your lifetime? Perhaps you already decided to do so through a bequest. Such qualified charitable gifts are exempt from federal estate tax. The charitable organization will receive the bequest promptly, allowing the funds to be put to work for the purpose you intend.
Perhaps you cannot make a substantial outright philanthropic gift. Have you considered creating a charitable remainder trust upon your death, thereafter giving your chose beneficiaries income for life with the principal balance going to charitable organizations you designate?
Help from Professionals
Do you have questions about your estate plan? We hope so. We have tried to stimulate your thinking. Now you may be ready to meet with your attorney and seek professional counsel about how your will should be drawn or revised.
If you are considering a gift to the All Saints Foundation from your estate, there are several possibilities. Let us help you develop a plan that will satisfy your desires for your family, your philanthropic goals and your charitable dreams. Please feel free to contact the All Saints Foundation at 262-687-8654 for a no obligation discussion or to schedule a visit.
For legal advice, please consult an attorney. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. Individual state taxes may further impact results. Figures cited are examples based on current rates and are subject to change.