What to Do Before Your First Estate Planning Appointment

1. Make a list of your assets and debts and their approximate values. Include each IRA, retirement account, investment account and bank account.

2. If you benefit from a trust, obtain a copy of the trust document.

3. Make a list of your children's full legal names and birth dates. Include adopted, birth and deceased children. It is critically important to include children you wish to disinherit.

4. Think about who should carry out your instructions after you die. This person(s) is your executor or personal representative. This person cannot ever have been convicted of a felony. Sometimes, U.S. citizenship is required.

5. Think about who should make legal decisions for you and manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do so.

6. Think about who should make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

7. Think about who should receive your assets after you die. This can include members of your family, friends and nonprofit organizations.

We strive to make estate planning simple. Sometimes, people want to do a lot of research before meeting with an attorney. The American Bar Association has developed comprehensive information about estate planning for just these clients. On its website, there is much written information, a one-hour video and ordering information for the ABA Guide to Wills & Estates, all about estate planning. This is all written for nonlawyers who want detailed information about estate planning questions and is meant to supplement, not replace, what your lawyer can do for you in your unique circumstances.

What to Do After a Death Occurs

Grieve and forgive. The death of a loved one is a huge loss. Let yourself grieve. Understand that everyone has their own unique way of grieving and expressing themselves through this process. Don't expect anyone else to grieve the way you do. This is time to forgive and have compassion for everyone who loved the person you just lost. Understand that no one, especially you, will be perfect as they grieve.

Meet with a lawyer. Meeting with a lawyer soon after a death can save you a great deal of money and prevent costly mistakes, whether the estate matters seem simple or complex. There are countless scams and frauds; there are many cost-saving details and procedures your lawyer can connect to a deceased person's family. A lawyer will explain the law so that the family knows what to expect and can comply with the laws, rules and regulations that apply to the family's specific situation. Often a probate is unnecessary, but other (simpler) procedures apply.

Protect yourself. Keep your home address out of public notices of the death. If the deceased lived with you, have someone you trust stay at your home during the service (a common time for burglaries). Keep relatives you do not trust out of your home completely. If there are such relatives, call a professional locksmith and have the locks to your home rekeyed immediately.

Wait to make irreversible decisions. Do not pay off debt, spend money outside your normal routines or buy investments. Meet with a lawyer, accountant and/or financial planner before making any permanent decisions about what to do with assets you receive or distribute. You deserve and need time to work through your grief before you make decisions you cannot later change.

Call 425-235-5535 to talk with our attorney in Kent, Washington, or contact the firm online. We serve clients in Seattle and beyond.