What Questions will your Estate Planning Attorney Ask?

Posted on: June 17th, 2016 by Mark R. Friedman

We try to make our clients as comfortable as possible (just ask our mascot dog, Pebbles), but nonetheless, meeting an attorney for the first time can be intimidating. Often, people don’t know what to expect. So, in this post, I’ll set forth a few questions that we might ask you if you’re interested in working with us to create an estate plan. I previously did a post like this for elder law / Medicaid planning. So, without further ado, here are questions we typically ask our estate planning clients:

Your Family
Are you married? Is it a first marriage for you? For your spouse? Do you have children? Do you have any children from a prior marriage? Does your spouse have any children from a prior marriage? Are your children married? Do they have children? Are you on good terms with all of your children? Is your spouse? Do your children get along with each other?

Your Wishes
After you die, how do you want your property distributed? To whom should it go? If they aren’t around to receive your property, is there anyone else you would want instead? What are your wishes regarding medical care? Artificial life support?

Agents and Fiduciaries
Who should manage your estate after you die? If you have minor or disabled children, who do you want to be their guardian? If you were unconscious or unable to make decisions, who do you want to make medical decisions for you? Is there anyone you want to make financial decisions for you?

Pre-Existing Documents
Have you ever made a will in the past? How about a healthcare directive (aka living will) or power of attorney? How long ago? Were the documents drafted by an attorney? Have your wishes changed since then? (If possible, please bring any pre-existing documents when you meet with us)

Inheritance Issues
Is there a reason why any of your heirs (spouse, children, grandchildren or anyone else who might inherit from your estate) shouldn’t get his or her inheritance outright? Are any of your heirs disabled? Do any have issues with alcohol, drugs or gambling? Are any facing a major liability, like a lawsuit or divorce?

Estate and Tax Issues
What is the total value of your assets? Do you own property jointly with anyone else? Do any of your assets have a named beneficiary (e.g., retirement accounts and life insurance), to whom the asset goes automatically when you die? If so, does that affect how you want to distribute your other property? Do you have any debts?

There are many more specific questions we’ll ask in particular situations, but these are some basics to give you a sense of what you should think about when working with an attorney on your estate plan.  If you’re interested in creating a will, power of attorney or healthcare directive, or other estate planning, please feel free to call or email FriedmanLaw today.

As this website provides general information and isn’t tailored to your particular situation, it doesn’t constitute legal advice and may not take into account rules and exceptions that affect you. Although updated from time to time, this website may not take account of recent legal developments or differences in laws from state to state. For safety sake, obtain individual legal advice before you act! You assume all risk of acting on information contained in this website. This website doesn’t constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship exists unless FriedmanLaw and you execute a written engagement agreement. Please contact us at 908-704-1900 to discuss engaging FriedmanLaw to help resolve your legal concerns.
Homepage photo: Cows grazing at Meadowbrook Farm, Bernardsville, NJ by Siddharth Mallya. October 23, 2012.
Interior photo: Somerset hills pastoral scene by Lawrence Friedman.