In this article we will provide you with a list of some of documents and items that are helpful in attending your first estate planning meeting to make sure your goals are met.  HOWEVER, we sometimes are a little reluctant to provide clients with a checklist of helpful items to bring. The reason here is too often when clients see such a list, they view it as a ‘homework assignment’, perhaps causing them to put off getting the process started.  If you find you are having difficulty getting any of these documents, don’t worry about it. Let’s first get the drafting of some basics started and we can go from there on any documents that are later needed.

Real Estate Legal Descriptions

There is one document that always is helpful.  For any real estate you have, (i.e. home, cabin, business, etc.) bringing in your legal description (as found on a deed or certificate of title) is good.  Legal descriptions on tax statements issued from the County Auditor are often times abbreviated and/or incomplete.  The best way to make sure we use the complete legal description, deeds or titles will be needed.  STILL, if you don’t have this readily available, don’t sweat it. Our paralegal Nicole can easily get these legal descriptions for us.  Don’t let this delay you. Call our office today to set up an appointment.

Other Information Needed

Other helpful information to provide at the initial estate planning meeting is as follows:

  • Prior estate planning documents. If you had a Will or other estate planning documents prepared in the past, we would like to review them so that we can determine if they are still adequate to meet your needs or if they need revision.
  • A list of your assets and how they are titled. We do not usually ask for statements but rather just a simple listing so that we can determine the best plan for you. We always like to say we are looking for a close ballpark on valuations.
  • Personal information for you and your children. Normally we ask you to provide information such as addresses, dates of birth, and telephone numbers.  This information is listed in some of the documents (such as a Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive) and is also helpful for us to have in our files.
  • Business documents. If you have an ownership interest in a business it is very important to bring in those documents so we can review them and make sure your estate plan does not conflict with any of the business provisions.
  • Prenuptial Agreements or Divorce paperwork. Often, we meet with clients who are in a second marriage or have a ‘blended family’.  It is important that we review any prior divorce documentation or pre-nuptial agreements to check for conflicts with the estate planning.

Estate Planning Process

While everyone’s estate planning is different, it generally works this way.  First, you set up an approximately one hour meeting where we just informally go over your hopes and wishes for your estate as well as your long term goals.

Once we have finished with the initial meeting, the documents are drafted and forwarded to you to review.  Clients then have the opportunity to review the documents and contact us with any questions, changes or concerns they may have.  If at this point you want to set up an additional meeting to provide explanation as to some of the legal language, that can easily be done. Often times though, clients are prepared to go to the next step—executing the documents.

Once you have reviewed the documents and are satisfied that they meet your current goals, then you can call our paralegal Nicole to set up a shorter, usually 20-30 minute meeting, to execute the documents in our office.

Family Dynamics

We acknowledge every family is not the same.  Some are ‘blended families’ after a second marriage.  Some families have what would be called ‘black sheep’.  There may be interesting dynamics and power struggles within a family.  Some people have children that are like bulls in a china shop in dealing with others.  We have sensitivity that there might be issues of special needs or disabilities.  There may also be the need for some type of spendthrift language for someone who blows through money irresponsibly.  We work through the first hour meeting to talk about these general issues.

No matter what your family situation, our office can assist you with drafting the best estate plan for you.  Please contact our office at 218 722 5809 or contact us through the website at



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