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January 21, 2020

Meeting With Your Estate Planning Attorney

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Organizing your financial affairs, including creating an estate plan, will help your loved ones tremendously if you become sick or pass away. Your estate plan enables you to distribute your property according to your wishes and may minimize gift, estate, and generation-skipping taxes and other expenses. However, since most options in an estate plan have both advantages and disadvantages, you should work with professionals, including your estate planning attorney and tax accountant, to discuss and understand the various options that are available to you and to make decisions that are best for your family and you.

The basic legal documents that your estate planning attorney will discuss with you may include wills, a revocable trust, durable powers of attorney, nominations of conservator, and advance health care directives.

When is it time to schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney?

It is a good idea to review your estate plan with an estate planning attorney whenever:

  1. You have a change in your personal circumstances (marriage or divorce, birth of a child, death of a family member) or financial status (significant change in net worth: acquiring or inheriting assets, starting or terminating a business);
  2. There are changes in the federal or state tax laws that you think may affect your situation; or
  3. Your goals have changed and you wish to make changes to (a) the persons you wish to manage your personal and financial affairs if you are incapacitated or die, or (b) the persons or charities you wish to receive your assets when you die and the manner in which the inheritances should be structured.

How to prepare for your estate planning meeting

Get yourself organized:

Getting yourself organized and prepared for a meeting with your estate planning attorney will help make the planning process proceed more efficiently and be more productive.

Your attorney will need (1) current personal data regarding your family members and yourself (names, birthdates, etc.) and (2) financial data (character of property/separate or community, information as to how title is held, and estimated fair market values of all of your assets and liabilities). Providing this information to your attorney well in advance of your meeting will allow the attorney time to prepare an agenda that is focused on matters relevant to your particular situation.

Your attorney may provide you with a questionnaire to gather this data. However, if you would like the questionnaire that we have at B|O|S to help you gather the information to provide to your attorney, please contact one of your B|O|S service professionals.

Consider Who Should Manage Your Financial Affairs, Health Care, and Care for Minor Children If You Become Incapacitated or Die:

Deciding who should act on your behalf if you are unable to manage your health care or your financial affairs if you become incapacitated or pass away is a very important part of your estate plan. You will also need to name an individual(s) to care for your minor children.

The fiduciaries to nominate to act on your behalf can include a Guardian, Executor, Trustee, Attorney in Fact, Conservator of the Person and Conservator of the Estate, and Agent for Health Care. The role of these fiduciaries can be described as follows:

GUARDIAN - the person who legally has the responsibility for the care and management of the person, property, or both, of a child during his or her minority.
EXECUTOR - the individual or bank nominated in your will to take care of your property after your death.
TRUSTEE - the individual or corporation named in your trust to take care of the property in the trust if you become incapacitated or die and to carry out your wishes.
ATTORNEY IN FACT - the individual(s) named in a Durable Power of Attorney to make financial decisions in the event that you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.
CONSERVATOR - the person appointed by the court to be legally responsible for your financial affairs or personal care if you are physically or mentally unable to handle either or both. Generally, a conservator is needed if the authority of an Attorney In Fact or Agent for Health Care is not recognized.
AGENT FOR HEALTH CARE - the individual(s) named in an Advance Health Care Directive to make health care decisions in the event that you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.

The guardian, executor, and trustee may be the same person but the different skills required for the positions often cause people to select different persons for these roles. Also, over time the circumstances of the persons you have chosen as your fiduciaries will change and when the time comes to act, these individuals may not be in a position to perform their duties. As such, it is a good idea to name successor fiduciaries in each of your estate planning documents.

Think About Your Goals and Who Should Be Your Intended Beneficiaries:

Focus on your vision of legacy planning, the values you would like to pass on to your heirs, and the behaviors you would like to encourage or discourage. Think about the individuals and charities that should inherit your assets and how the inheritances should be structured. Strategies can be dictated by tax or personal reasons, or both.

If you would like to discuss some of these issues before meeting with your estate planning attorney, please contact one of your B|O|S service team professionals. We can provide you with additional resource material, including vocabulary lists and summaries of many estate planning techniques, to help you become better informed. We at B|O|S are ready to work with you, your attorney, and tax professionals on the merits and specifics of estate planning techniques and other investment and financial planning options.

B|O|S maintains an estate planning glossary that further defines many of the terms used in this memo. If you wish to receive a copy of the glossary, please contact a member of your dedicated service team.


This article provides a general overview of a particular estate planning topic and is not intended to be an exhaustive summary of every practical element of that topic. Many important elements of each subject are not discussed herein. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as a general guide to estate planning or as a source of any specific recommendations, and it makes no implied or express recommendations concerning the manner in which any individual’s account should or would be handled, as appropriate estate planning strategies depend upon the individual’s specific objectives and circumstances. It is the responsibility of any person or persons in possession of this material to inform himself or herself of and to seek appropriate advice regarding any investment, financial planning, or estate planning decisions, legal requirements, and taxation regulations which might be relevant to the topic of this white paper or the subscription, purchase, holding, exchange, redemption, or disposal of any investments.

Estate planning law changes frequently and the information presented within may no longer be current. Please do not rely on the information provided herein without first consulting an attorney.

This article does not constitute a solicitation in any jurisdiction in which such a solicitation is unlawful or to any person to whom it is unlawful. Moreover, this memorandum neither constitutes an offer to enter into an investment agreement with the recipient nor an invitation to respond by making an offer to enter into an investment agreement.

Opinions expressed are current opinions as of January 2018 and are subject to change. No part of this material may, without the prior written consent of Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough, LLC, be (i) copied, photocopied, or duplicated in any form, by any means, or (ii) distributed to any person that is not an employee, officer, director, or authorized agent of the recipient.

Filed under: Estate Planning

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