Estate planning is a highly personal, and often sensitive, endeavor. The primary goal of your estate plan, after all, is to protect you, your assets, and your loved ones. Ideally, you will form a lifelong relationship with your estate planning attorney, making it much more likely that your estate plan will succeed at its intended goals. Having an ongoing relationship with your estate planning attorney is also beneficial because estate planning is not something that occurs in one consultation and then is forgotten. On the contrary, your estate plan should be reviewed and revised as you move through the various stages of your life. Your initial consultation with an estate planning attorney may be a bit uncomfortable though, precisely because of the personal nature of estate planning. For example, consider the following five uncomfortable questions your estate lawyer might need to ask you when you create your original estate plan.
- What is the value of your estate? If you are like most people, you probably do not openly discuss the value of your personal wealth. After all, there is rarely any reason for anyone to know details regarding your estate assets. Creating an estate plan, however, is one of the times when you will need to be honest and forthcoming with another person about the assets that make up your estate. One of the goals of any comprehensive estate plan should be to protect estate assets. To provide you with advice on how best to accomplish that goal your attorney must have a detailed and accurate picture of what those assets entail. Moreover, to plan for the potential impact of gift and estate assets on your estate, your attorney must know the cumulative value of your estate as well as additional details regarding the assets that make up your estate.
- Do you have any health problems or chronic conditions? Another subject that people tend to consider highly confidential is that status of their health, particularly if they are suffering from any serious illnesses or medical conditions. You may, therefore, be reluctant to share the status of your health with an attorney whom you just met. There are several reasons, however, why your estate planning attorney needs to know about any health concerns you have. If you have a health concern that could cause you to become incapacitated in the near future, for example, your attorney needs to know that in order to properly plan for that possibility within your estate plan.
- Do you have any out of wedlock children? This can be a very touchy subject for people, particularly if there is a child out there that has not been openly acknowledged or that was the product of an extra-marital affair. Touchy subject or not though, it needs to be discussed with your estate planning attorney because that child is one of your legal heirs. As such, he/she could make a claim to your estate assets. Leaving the child out of your Will and failing to acknowledge him/her is not the best strategy to take if you do not want that child to inherit from your estate. Doing that is likely to result in litigation. Conversely, if you wish to include the child in your estate plans, you will also need to identify the child and acknowledge his/her relationship to you. Either way, it needs to be discussed with your attorney.
- How stable is your marriage? If you bristled when you read the question, it’s understandable. No one wants to discuss their most intimate relationship with others; however, if your marriage is less than stable you will need to take steps within your estate plan that contemplate the possibility of the marriage ending.
- Do any of your children (or other beneficiaries) have a drug/alcohol, gambling, or other similar problem? No one wants to admit that a child has a drug problem, a gambling addiction, or even has a problem managing money. Each of these problems, however, could result in squandering an inheritance. Don’t allow your hard-earned assets to be squandered simply because you don’t want to admit that your child has a problem. There are ways to provide for your child in your estate plan without putting your assets at risk, such as through the use of a trust instead of a lump sum inheritance. Your estate planning attorney won’t know to take extra measures to protect your assets though unless you are honest about any problems your child may have.
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about answering questions your estate lawyer may have, contact the experienced North Carolina estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.