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A long time friend and a client for whom Steve Overom had prepared wills twelve years ago asked him at a social gathering if he could send her a list of things that she and her husband would have to have in order to meet with him to review their wills and estate plan.

Steve Overom explained that when he started practicing law he used a 20-page questionnaire for his estate planning clients.  The only problem was that most of them did not want to take the time to complete it.  As a result, we have chosen instead to gather the relevant information from my estate planning clients in our initial interview with them.  We did think however that it might be useful to provide a summary of some of the information that is useful/essential in the estate planning process.

Beneficiary Information

Names, addresses and dates of birth of all your children.

Names and dates of death of any deceased children and whether he/she had any children.

Names, addresses and dates of birth of any person to whom you want to leave anything.

Correct name(s) and addresses of any charities you want to provide for in your will. 

Any adverse financial circumstances of any person that you provide for in your will? Are they incapable of managing money?  Are they in financial trouble?  Do they have marital difficulties?  Do they have an alcohol or chemical abuse problem?

What are your goals/desires for the disposition of your assets upon an untimely death?  Do you want to provide for a college education?  Money to start a business?

Asset Information

Do you have any special assets like a cabin that require special treatment?  What do you want to do with them?

Do you have any items of personal property that you want a particular person to have?  If so, such item and person should be identified.

You should make a list of all your assets, the ownership of them (i.e. joint ownership, individual ownership or otherwise), and the value of each individual asset.

You should assemble deeds from all real estate that you own.

You should assemble all of your life insurance policies and list who owns the policy, the death benefit, the cash value and who the beneficiary is.

You should assemble all of your IRAs, stock brokerage accounts, and other investment account information and identify who owns the account, the amount in the account, and the beneficiary, if any, of the account.

Fiduciary Information

A fiduciary is a person or entity that another person trusts or relies on to take care of designated things if the naming person is unable to do such things.  Fiduciaries are required to be named in connection with estate planning.

Who do you want to act as your personal representative?  This is a person that makes sure a will gets probated and deals with all of the matters involved in a probate process.  This person should be trusted and must be capable of dealing with money. This can be an individual or a bank or trust company.  The full name(s) and addresses of the personal representative are needed.

Who do you want to take care of your minor children?  This person is called a guardian.  This designation is extremely important.  The full name(s) and addresses of the guardian are needed.

If you want to control the distribution of your property after your death, you will need to name a Trustee.  The Trustee needs to be able to manage money and carry out your wishes.  Individuals of banks/trust companies can act as Trustee.  You should think about this and have one or two names before you visit with your lawyer to discuss your estate plan.


The items set forth above are the basic items that you will need to have in order to get started with a lawyer on an estate plan.  Depending on your situation, more information or more detail may have to be provided.





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