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Truthfully, you don’t need to have a final answer for any of these three things.  Part of our jobs as estate planning attorneys is to discuss with client’s their options, and help them evaluate the pros and cons of each choice.  But thinking through each of these three things will prepare you for a productive discussion with your attorney.  In the end, having thought through these three simple things before your meeting will make your estate plan better.

What are your assets? 

For most people this list is pretty simple – their house and a few bank accounts, and hopefully a well-funded retirement plan.  Add a life insurance plan or two, investment accounts for fun.  Make it more interesting with rental properties or your small business.  What your assets are, and how they are titled will determine what needs to be done to save the most in estate taxes and maximize the benefit to you and your heirs.

Where should your estate go? 

No one knows your family like you do.  Your estate planning attorney should be interested in each of your beneficiaries.  How are they at handling money?  Do they have a spouse that is a concern?  Does your beneficiary have any disabilities?  Are they receiving any government assistance?  Is there anyone you don’t want the money to go to?  There are lots of options for estate planning and the better your attorney understands your family and your goals, the better your plan will be.

Who should be the executor?

Your estate plan will pass on some weighty responsibility to the person or persons you select.  The responsibilities will involve handling family members, bureaucrats, and possibly attorneys, not to mentions lots of paperwork.  The two traits I would focus on would be integrity and good communication.  Talking to the person you’ve selected as an executor or successor trustee about your choice is a good idea.

Creating an estate plan is a work of partnership between you and your attorney.  He or she brings the technical skills and know-how to the table, and you bring your goals and wishes for your family and particular situation.

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