While not a topic people like to address, the need for a will is something most everyone should think about. Some people think that only the very wealthy, or those with property need a will. That's simply not true. If you have kids or pets, you need a will. If you want to leave something to a friend or relative you need a will. If you want to make your final wishes clear you need a will. Dying isn't a matter of if, but rather of when. You need to make sure that your wishes are carried out after you're gone.
Estate Planning Information Checklist
Collecting the following information ahead of time will save you time (and money) in your estate planning lawyer's office:
- Names and addresses of your immediate family members, other beneficiaries, and people you would like to serve as executors, trustees and guardians for your children
- Bank account information, such as balances, account numbers, locations of accounts and safe deposit boxes
- Pension and retirement account information, including IRAs, Keoghs, profit sharing plans, stock options and government benefits
- Detailed description of any stocks and bonds owned, and the location where they're stored
- Insurance policy information, including policy location and beneficiaries, as well as a copy of the actual policy
- An inventory list of valuable and sentimental personal possessions, including family heirlooms
- Copies of community property agreements, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, divorce decrees and any previous wills or will codicils
- An overall description of your income sources and assets, including real estate
- Information about any trusts you may have created or benefit from
- A list of debts you owe, including amounts and to whom they are owed, as well as a list of debts that are owed to you
- A list of specific "bequests" you want to make in your will, such as "$5,000 to my niece"
- Recent tax returns (from at least the past three or four years)
- A list of any assets not included above
Questions for Your Attorney
Using an attorney to create your last will and testament will help minimize the tax impact on your heirs, and make life easier for your executor (sometimes called a personal representative) after your death.
Among the questions to consider asking your lawyer:
- How do you charge for your services?
- How can I reduce the taxes that my beneficiaries will owe after I die?
- Do you see any potential problems with the bequests I want to make?
- Have I made all of the necessary arrangements to take care of my young children?
- How frequently should I update my will?
If you have questions, feel free to call us at 212-285-4100.