Haven’t we all run across the reluctant client who is sitting in our office stumbling over what they want done for estate planning? It’s tough for people to come in to an estate planning attorney’s office and talk about when and how they may die, what they want to pass on, and what they want to happen if they lose their minds.
Clients need to understand that estate planning is more than just a Will. It encompasses a whole host of other issues that need to be taken into account to draft an accurate and valid estate plan. To that end, we ask the client a lot of very personal questions, so we have an accurate picture of their estate, the beneficiaries involved, and potential challengers. We’re not being nosey. We just need to have an accurate picture. We hope the answers to our questions will provide that picture.
As estate planning attorneys, we need to tell our clients up front that the answers to the questions we ask are vitally important to carry out their express wishes. It is only when armed with the answers to our questions, that we can determine the appropriate documents and draft those documents to cover all foreseen eventualities.
Probing Questions That Need Answers
- If both parents die, who raises the children?
- What happens if everyone dies at the same time?
- Do you have other children/descendants who have not been mentioned?
- Have we covered ALL the important relationships in your life?
- Is your sperm frozen for use later?
- Are you transgender?
- Have you ever made large gifts to others?
- Who will care for your pets?
- What do you want done if you are terminally ill?
- Do you have a postnuptial, prenuptial, or community property agreement?
- Do you have, or have you had, serious/chronic health concerns?
- Is there anything that you have not told me that I should know to effectively plan your estate?
In your practice, do you ask other questions to determine the scope of estate planning for your clients? If so, what are those questions?
For more information, see this interesting Forbes article by Deborah Jacobs.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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