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The First Interview with Your Estate Planning Attorney is Critical

The First Interview with Your Estate Planning Attorney is Critical Image

If you’ve decided to create an Estate Plan to protect your loved ones, you should carefully prepare for the critical first interview with an Estate Planning attorney. His or her goal is to get to know you – really well. Before the interview the law office will send you a list of materials to bring to the meeting. Reviewing those is step one in being prepared.

Step two is letting down your guard.

In the meeting, the attorney will ask questions to uncover your goals. You may be well aware of your general goals, but the attorney will want to uncover issues that may not be top of mind for you, or issues that are difficult to discuss.

For example, you may have adult children who have children of their own. You may believe all of the marriages in your family are on solid footing – and you may expect they will continue that way. Your attorney, however, may want to pose some “what if” questions that you have not considered.

  • What if your child is killed in an accident, do you want his/her spouse to inherit your estate? Or, would you like to skip to the next generation.
  • What if a grandchild gets into drugs? Should his share of your estate be managed in some way?
  • Despite your robust good health today, what if you or your spouse becomes critically ill? How will you stretch your resources to pay for care?
  • What if you really want one child to inherit more than the other? Is that fair? Do you have to be fair? What can you do?  

Sometimes that initial interview can become very emotional, and you should be prepared for that. Experts in the estate planning industry recommend that you open up even if your attorney’s questions make you somewhat uncomfortable. The result will be a plan that reflects your real desires and meets the needs of your loved ones.

Here are some unexpected questions your attorney to ask:

  1. What are your most important values? Why?
  2. What is your most important unfulfilled lifetime goal, and why is that particular goal so important to you?
  3. Have you ever declared bankruptcy or been sued? What are the details
  4. What is your greatest fear?
  5. Have you ever envisioned your family immediately following your death? What would that picture look like?
  6. How many life partners have you had? Have you ever been divorced?
  7. Describe the present status of your relationship with your spouse/partner, including how long it has lasted.
  8. Do you have children from a prior relationship? Do your family members know about those children? Do you want them included in your estate?
  9. How do your children and your present life partner get along? How do you expect them to get along after your death?
  10. Describe your level of comfort in your life partner’s ability to manage either physically or financially after your death?
  11. Describe your relationship with each child, the reason for your feelings and whether you favor one child over the others.
  12. Do your children get along, and how do you expect them to get along after your death?
  13. Have you made any promises to any of your children concerning your estate? Are those promises in writing? Are they consistent with life insurance, pension plans, etc.?
  14. Do you believe your plan should divide your estate equally between your children and grandchildren (as well as the descendants of a deceased child)? Why or why not?
  15. Should a child who has inherited wealth or who will make a lot of money receive less than a child who you expect will have less?  Why or why not?
  16. Have you or do you intend to discuss your estate planning with your children or your life partner? Why or why not?
  17. Do you have any interest in leaving any portion of your estate to charity? How interested are you in being publicly recognized (either you or your estate) for a charitable contribution?
  18. Do you have an interest in a family business, including the size of the interest (whether it is a controlling interest or a minority interest).
  19. Do you have family, friends or advisors to serve as trustee or administrator of your estate?
  20. Have you ever served as a trustee, executor or guardian/conservator? If so, please describe your experiences, including whether anyone disputed your actions in those capacities.

When you are prepared for emotional questions – and prepared to answer them truthfully, you will have a more productive conversation with your estate planning attorney and you will have a plan that reflects your ultimate goals.

Give us a call if you are ready to get started.