Becoming a Client
Estate planning is extremely important for all individuals. Over the 40 years we’ve been helping clients devise effective estate plans, we’ve come to learn that there are a lot of misconceptions about the process—and understandably so. It isn’t every day you meet with an estate planning attorney. Thus, it’s common for our first-time clients to ask us how they should prepare for our first meeting. To help simplify the process and to get the ball rolling, we like to recommend our clients start off with the three Ps of estate planning: people, property and plans.#1 – People
While assets are at the center of estate planning by necessity, estate planning is really about people and families. Thus, the first place to start when creating an estate plan is to identify a list of important people in your life.
Aside from yourself and your immediate family, you may have other, more distant relatives or charitable organizations that you would like to include in your estate plan (and perhaps those you specifically do not want to include). It is also a good idea to identify those friends and family members who have useful skills and may be willing to serve as a trustee or personal representative. In addition to important people, you may also want to identify important institutions and charities that you would like to support in the future. If you are a loving pet owner, you may even want to create an estate plan for your pet.
It is also important to identify people that you are concerned about. This could be in-laws that you are worried about. Children or other heirs that are saddled with debt, suffer from substance abuse or are generally really bad with money. A proper estate plan will provide and protect these people, or protect your assets from these people.#2 – Property
Once you’ve compiled a list of all the important people, charities and institutions in your life, the next step is to assemble a list of the assets you own or control. At this stage in the process, there is no need to locate every penny in every account you’ve ever owned. Instead, think more generally about all your assets. Do you have cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.? What is the approximate value of each asset class? It is also important to make a note of whether you solely own the asset or if you own it jointly with someone else. Don’t forget to include often-overlooked assets like the death benefit of a life insurance policy, business interests, as well as any inheritance you may receive in the future.#3 – Plans
The next step is to consider what plans you want to put in place for the people and property in the event of your own incapacity or death. Admittedly, this is the most challenging part of the estate planning process; however, it is essential to developing an effective plan.
Some of the questions you may want to ask yourself include:
- Who do you want to make decisions on your behalf if you can’t communicate your desires?
- Would you want the same person to handle all of your affairs (financial, personal, and healthcare)? Or name different people for different areas?
- How do you want to distribute your assets to your heirs?
- Do you have concerns about an heir’s ability to responsibly oversee their inheritance?
- Do you have anyone in mind to care for your minor children?
- Do you want to facilitate the administration of your estate by reducing the amount of assets that must pass through probate?
- Is your estate subject to federal estate tax?
- Do you have a loved one with special needs for whom you would like to provide ongoing support?
- Do you anticipate the need for long-term care in the future?
Of course, the estate planning process is intensely personal, and these are just a few of the questions to consider.Reach Out to the Knowledgeable Houston Estate Planning Lawyers at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC to Schedule a Consultation Today
If you are interested in learning more about estate planning or long-term care planning, contact the dedicated team of attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We offer no-obligation, no-pressure consultations to all prospective clients, during which we will explain the estate planning process, your available options, and how we can help you and your family reach your goals. We represent clients in Houston and throughout Harris County, including in The Woodlands and Sugarland. When you are ready to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs, please give us a call at (713) 333-8900. You can also complete the “Request a Consultation” form, and we will give you a call to schedule a meeting.