Trust & Estate Planning, Financial Planning

Estate Planning, Part 1: Preparing to Meet with Your Attorney

May 22, 2024

smiling couple meeting attorney

Amanda MacGee, Esq.
Vice President, Estate Settlement and Fiduciary Officer
Washington Trust Wealth Management

It is time to plan for the future and meet with an estate planning attorney, but where do you start?  Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for your first meeting with an estate planning attorney.  

  1. Think about your goals and priorities: Take time to reflect on your goals and priorities for your estate plan. Consider what kind of legacy you want to leave. Do you want to provide for your heirs? Is giving to charity important to you? Remember that your estate plan is also life planning and will protect you and your assets should you become incapacitated. You will also want to reflect on how you wish to be cared for should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself.
  2. Gather important documents:  Organize your identification, insurance policies, and any existing estate planning documents you may have. Don’t forget to bring information regarding any business you own or partially own. If it is easily available, bring a copies of any deeds to real estate.  If you are aware of an anticipated inheritance and have documents related to this, you should bring those as well.
  3. Compile a list of all your assets and liabilities. Include bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, and personal property, along with detailed information on where these assets are held and how they can be accessed. It is also important to have a list of any debts or liabilities, such as your mortgage. This should include any accounts that are in your sole name as well as any joint accounts.
  4. Consider your family dynamics. Are there any unique circumstances that may need to be addressed in your estate plan? For example, if your children don’t need an inheritance or if an inheritance could unintentionally cause a significant tax burden for them, should you consider leaving your estate to your grandchildren? Or perhaps you need to address situations such as blended families, estranged relatives, dependents with special needs, or family members struggling with addiction or financial vulnerabilities.
  5. Provide for your pets. How would you prefer your pets be cared for after your passing?   Would you prefer that they be adopted by family members or possibly designate a caregiver for your pets in case of your incapacity or death. Provide instructions for the care and maintenance of your pets, including any dietary or medical needs, and consider whether you’ll want to leave money or set up a pet trust to cover expenses.
  6. Review beneficiary designations. Make sure your attorney has a current list of all your beneficiaries and any specific instructions regarding these accounts to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
  7. Prepare for the worst. Identify potential guardians for any minor children, carefully considering their willingness, ability, and suitability. Also, while difficult to consider, it is important to have a plan for where you would like your assets distributed should there be a tragedy involving your family.  
  8. Don’t forget about tangible assets.  Consider who will inherit specific tangible assets such as art, collectibles, or family heirlooms. Document any special instructions or preferences for their distribution.
  9. Consider who should be your executor or trusteeWhen it comes to trusting someone to ensure your wishes are carried out, think about whether you prefer a family member or a corporate trustee to manage your estate. Consider the individual's ability to handle financial matters, communicate effectively with beneficiaries, and carry out your wishes impartially.  
  10. Prepare a list of questions and concerns:  Take some time to jot down any questions or topics you want to discuss or areas where you need clarification.  

Washington Trust Wealth Management Can Help

Financial planning is an important part of your estate planning. Our qualified wealth advisors work closely with your estate planning attorney and support you step by step through the planning process. We can help you facilitate family conversations about your estate, avoid common estate planning pitfalls, serve as a responsible corporate trustee for your estate, and design a personalized estate plan that is aligns with your goals and values and minimizes tax liabilities.  

Connect with a wealth advisor

No matter where you are in life, we can help. Get started with one of our experts today. Contact us at 800-582-1076 or submit an online form.

Contact us

This document is intended as a broad overview of some of the services provided to certain types of Washington Trust Wealth Management clients. This material is presented solely for informational purposes, and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting, actuarial or tax advice. It does not take into account any investor's particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon. Please consult with a financial counselor, an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific financial, legal or tax situation. No recommendation or advice is being given in this presentation as to whether any investment or fund is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors, or markets identified and described were, or will be, profitable.

Any views or opinions expressed are those of Washington Trust Wealth Management and are subject to change based on product changes, market, and other conditions. All information is current as of the date of this material and is subject to change without notice. This document, and the information contained herein, is not, and does not constitute, a public or retail offer to buy, sell, or hold a security or a public or retail solicitation of an offer to buy, sell, or hold, any fund, units or shares of any fund, security or other instrument, or to participate in any investment strategy, or an offer to render any wealth management services. Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results.

It is important to remember that investing entails risk. Stock markets and investments in individual stocks are volatile and can decline significantly in response to issuer, market, economic, political, regulatory, geopolitical, and other conditions. Investments in foreign markets through issuers or currencies can involve greater risk and volatility than U.S. investments because of adverse market, economic, political, regulatory, geopolitical, or other conditions. Emerging markets can have less market structure, depth, and regulatory oversight and greater political, social, and economic instability than developed markets. Fixed Income investments, including floating rate bonds, involve risks such as interest rate risk, credit risk and market risk, including the possible loss of principal. Interest rate risk is the risk that interest rates will rise, causing bond prices to fall. The value of a portfolio will fluctuate based on market conditions and the value of the underlying securities. Diversification does not assure or guarantee better performance and cannot eliminate the risk of investment loss. Investors should contact a tax advisor regarding the suitability of tax-exempt investments in their portfolio.