Every estate plan starts out with a goal — or several — in mind. To craft an effective estate plan, you and your attorney both need to be clear about the issues that are most important to you. No two estate plans are exactly alike because each one is driven by the testator’s individual feelings about what’s truly important.

How do you identify the goals that are most important to your estate plans? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have minor children? What steps do you need to take to ensure their well-being and care if you die before they reach adulthood? What measures do you want in place regarding their inheritances while they’re still impulsive young adults?
  • Do you have pets? How do you intend to provide for them if you die? Who among your friends and family members will willingly take on the responsibility for their care?
  • Who else is important to you? What steps do you need to take to make it easier on your loved ones financially following your death?
  • What goals do you have for your end-of-life care? Who should make medical decisions on your behalf if you can no longer do so? What guidance do you want that person to have regarding your wishes?
  • Do you want to leave anything to charity? What about biological donations after your death? What directions should your relatives know?
  • What are your tax concerns? How many of your assets do you hope to protect from the probate process? What other ways can you minimize taxes on your estate?
  • What emotional issues concern you? Do you know how your personal items are to be divided? What can you do to keep fighting between your heirs to a minimum?

The clearer you are about what you want the future to be like — whether you’re in it or not — the easier it will be for your attorney to help you build an estate plan that will make your vision a reality.