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Friday, January 8, 2010

What should I take with me to meet my estate planning lawyer?

Usually when I set up an appointment for Will planning with a client I haven't met before, I let the client know what he or she should bring to our meeting. The advice I give the client is going to be much more complete if I have all of the information I need at my fingertips. Also, we can get going on the documents more quickly if I don't have to wait for the client to follow up by sending me documents or information at a later date.

By the way, don't put off your meeting because you haven't really made up your mind about what to do with your estate. You should ask your lawyer for ideas and advice, and bounce your own ideas off him/her to learn more about how it might work or not work.

Here are the items you should bring with you:

  • Two pieces of personal identification. Lawyers in Alberta are now required to ask for personal I.D. (It's also a bank security requirement).

  • An overview of your financial picture. You should be able to list a description and ballpark value of every asset you own, including real estate (home, cottage, rental properties, time shares, mines and minerals titles), RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, LIRAs, pensions, ESOPs, savings and non-registered investments. If you'd like to bring your most recent statements, that's fine, but not necessary. A financial overview will also include a list of your debts, such as mortgages, loans and lines of credit (but not daily bills).

  • A description of the life insurance you own, if any. This includes the name of the insurance company, the face value of the policy and the name of the beneficiary. Many people say when asked that they aren't really sure who the beneficiary of their policy is. You should check before your meeting as your lawyer will ask you this question. You should also know whether any major debts, such as your mortgage, is life insured.

  • You should also describe who the beneficiaries of your RRSPs and pension plans are.

  • A list of any property, either real estate or financial instruments, that you own jointly with other people.

  • If you are a farmer or someone else that owns rural land, bring the legal description of your land.

  • A copy of your current Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, Personal Directive or any other planning documents of this kind, if you have any. Also bring a copy of any trusts of which you are the trustee or any family trust in which you are involved as a trustee or beneficiary.

  • Any court order or agreement pertaining to child support or spousal support that you are currently paying.

  • Your company's minute book.

  • A list of your children and any other people you want to include as beneficiaries under your Will. Include birthdays if they are under age 18. If your family arrangement is complicated, you might consider drawing a family tree. Indicate anyone who is mentally or physically handicapped to the extent that they cannot earn a living.

A good way to organize your thoughts and your information before seeing the lawyer is to use a questionnaire that is designed for estate planning. If you would like me to mail or email you one, at no cost of course, please leave a request here (I won't publish your comment if you ask me not to). You might also download a questionnaire from a law firm. Here are a few you can try. Just click on the name of the firm to be directed to the questionnaire:

Brownlee LLP - Edmonton (this one has my name on it because I worked there for many years before my current job).

Turning Point Law - Sherwood Park. Click Here for a couple and click here for a single individual.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mathew. It's my goal here to provide really practical information that people can really use.


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