Don’t waste time: Help your lawyer and yourself, be prepared

By Dan Davis

So, you’re finally sitting down with your attorney to talk about your estate. Great.

But before meeting with your attorney and talking about your estate plan, you can do some things to save time and money. Here are four tips that the Community Foundation of Jackson County would like to share with you:

1. Prepare an inventory of your estate. Since your estate plan will essentially direct the transfer of your assets at death, you should compile a list of all your holdings and obligations. What do you own? How much is it worth? Where is it located? How are the various assets owned (jointly, separately)? List any memberships (country club, timeshares). What are the beneficiary designations on your bank, brokerage and retirement accounts and your insurance policies? How much do you owe and to whom?

This will take some time and force you to get all your records in order. But the process will be instructive for you and timesaving when your attorney begins to quiz you about these things. It’s easy to overlook some assets, so be as thorough as possible.

2. Select key people you want to involve. Who do you want to oversee the probating of your estate (your personal representative)? Who do you want to serve as the trustee of any trusts created by your will? Who do you want to be the guardians of any minor children you might have?

And don’t forget about your power-of-attorney and health care documents. You will need not only primary names, but also back-up names in case your first choices are unable or unwilling to serve. If possible, have two additional names for each position. Mapping out all of this before visiting your attorney will make things much easier and more time-efficient.

3. Decide what to give family members. This can be one of the most difficult parts of the whole process. Indeed, some people endlessly delay starting or completing a will because this step is either too perplexing or painful. There are many issues to consider. Too much inheritance may stifle personal initiative and feelings of self-worth. One child may be careless with money, another disciplined.

One may have physical needs requiring extra assistance. One may be self-sufficient, another financially strapped. How much is too much? How little is too little? You might want to discuss this subject with a trusted friend or personal advisor. And remember, with a will you can always change your mind later. The important thing is to at least get a plan in place for now.

4. Determine your charitable bequests. Which organizations do you want to support with gifts from your estate? Of course, the Community Foundation of Jackson County hopes you will include us in your plans. Your estate gift will make a difference and help us continue our important community work – and funding for the community work of others — into the future.

A charitable giving component to your estate plans can have significant meaning to your survivors and communicate your values in a powerful way. It can also help you establish a legacy that will outlive your children and grandchildren and help others in Jackson County for generations to come.

The foundation can be of service in helping you integrate your giving goals with your overall estate plan and help you prepare to visit your attorney. You can call us at 812-523-4483 or send an email to president@cfjackson.org.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. The foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1992 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Jackson County.