Living Trusts – KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) for the First Meeting with the Lawyer

By ES (14)

Boy, they make it complicated.   I recently received a newsletter from a national investment firm that recommended that its clients consult with an estate planning attorney.  Great advice! 

Furthermore, the firm recommended that prior to meeting with the attorney, the client marshal a ton of paper, including inventories of:

Family heirlooms

Jewelry and watches

House contents


Personal Information

  • Social Security Card
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Decree of divorce and/or annulment
  • Medical Information
  • Health care ID card
  • List of health care providers
  • Medical records

Employee Benefits

  • Benefits handbook or Web site address and online login ID and password
  • Contact information for Human Resources

Funeral Arrangements

  • Titles to cemetery plots
  • Contracts for prepaid services
  • Internment preferences
  • Service preferences
  • Contact information for friends and relatives

Good grief!  Are you kidding me?!  Nobody should have to prepare for a meeting with their estate planning lawyer as though it were an IRS audit.  If I asked my prospective clients to prepare this sort of make-work, I wouldn’t have any clients.

The reason the client doesn’t need minutiae for a living trust is it’s irrelevant.  Most clients come to me for estate planning, not tax planning.  The vast majority of Americans has estates valued at under $5.25 million, and therefore need no tax planning.

I keep it simple.  All I ask my clients and prospects to prepare for the initial meeting is:

  1. Contact information for their beneficiaries.
  2. Contact information for their agents and personal representatives.
  3. Contact information for their doctor.
  4. Think about who gets what.

The rest of the information I need to begin drafting an effective living trust is gleaned during the face-to-face client meeting.  Estate planning shouldn’t have to be a drag!


Thanks for reading!

Posted 3/31/14-ES