Everyone needs a will!
A will can ensure that your assets are distributed to the people and in the amounts that you wish after you're gone. A will also allows you to name who you wish to be the guardian(s) of minor children you may have. A living trust states your wishes should you become unable to do so yourself. Preparing a will (and estate planning more generally) is a complex task. To do it right, you might want to seek the advice of more than one expert.
Your Estate Planning Team
Estate Planning Attorney
Only attorneys are licensed to write legal documents. If you want to draft a will, create a trust, or draft a Power of Attorney, you will need an attorney on your team. Remember that no single attorney is an authority on every aspect of the law. Be sure to find an attorney who specializes in estate planning.
The following suggestions may help you find the right attorney:
- Ask people you know if they can refer you to a good attorney. Friends, business associates, or other professionals (like your financial planner or accountant) may be able to recommend someone.
- Contact the DC Bar Association and ask for estate planners or fiscal advisors. You can visit or call them at: District of Columbia Bar Association, 1101 K Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 737-4700 or toll free: (877) 333-2227.
- As a last resort, check the yellow pages of your telephone book. This directory should list attorneys by their area of specialization.
Interview one or more attorneys to be sure you feel comfortable with and have confidence in the person you select. Check first to see if the attorney offers a free initial consultation. During this first meeting, you should find out the attorney’s fee schedule and payment expectations. In addition, use this time to discuss what you want to accomplish with your estate plan. This should help you determine if the attorney can meet your needs.
Estate planning also involves accounting for the amount of taxes that your heirs could owe to IRS. A tax expert on your estate planning team can help you figure out what your estate’s tax bill will be. He or she can also explore with you the advantages of tax-deferred investments. Keep in mind that federal estate tax laws have changed dramatically in recent years.
A financial planner recommends investments that are best suited to your estate plan. This planner should also be able to estimate your pension income and tell you how that income will be distributed after you die. For more information about choosing a financial planner, call AARP toll-free at (888) OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).
A qualified insurance agent can help you in matters involving life insurance, disability coverage, and other concerns. Be sure to choose an agent who is familiar with estate-planning concepts. Before choosing your agent, check with the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking to be sure that the agent is licensed in DC. Agents who sell variable products must also be registered with the National Association of Securities Dealers. In addition, life insurance agents may have professional designations that show they have a certain level of expertise. Look for an agent who is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) or Life Underwriting Training Council Fellow (LUTCF). You can reach the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking at (202) 727-8000.
If you have further questions or need to contact a planner, please contact AARP Estate Planning at (888) OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).