Up to 60% of Americans haven’t prepared a will or estate plan. If you haven’t thought about yours yet, it may be because planning for death and illness is uncomfortable. It forces you to sit with the reality that you may one day leave your family. While the idea may not sit well with you, estate and trust planning is in both your and your family’s best interest. 

An estate and trust plan gives you the ability to determine who will receive your assets when you are no longer around and who can handle your affairs if you can no longer make financial decisions. Without an estate plan, the assets you worked hard for may not be left to the people you wanted. Estate planning is the best way to ensure that the things you own go to the people you love. 

Many people may think that they need to be wealthy to start planning for their estate. However, no matter how well off you are, estate planning is a crucial component to your overall financial plan. If you own anything, like cars or jewelry, it can be included in your estate. You can also consider the following assets as part of your estate:

  • Houses.
  • Savings accounts.
  • Checking accounts.
  • Investments. 
  • Life insurance. 
  • Furniture.

Estate planning questionnaires can help you list your assets and start to plan for them in the event of death or incapacity. Filling out an estate planning questionnaire can help you feel confident and prepared before speaking with your financial advisor.

Why is an estate planning questionnaire necessary? 

Estate planning can be complicated, especially since you want to make sure that all your assets are accounted for. It can be a good idea to speak to an experienced estate planning attorney to help you through the process. 

Your attorney may present you with an estate planning questionnaire to help you organize your information in a single document. They may also want to understand the value of your assets and where exactly you would like them to go. 

Answering the questionnaire can also: 

  • Help you compile necessary research. 
  • Save you time before your first advisor meeting. 
  • Help you clarify the status of your assets. 
  • Help you decide who in your family receives which assets in the event of your death or illness. 
  • Give you the opportunity to communicate your financial plans with your spouse.
  • Give you the opportunity to ask your advisor questions. 

When should you fill out an estate planning questionnaire?

The sooner you fill out an estate planning questionnaire, the better you will be able to start putting together a plan to protect your assets and your family. You don’t have to wait to achieve a certain amount of wealth. Nor do you have to wait until you’re a certain age. If you have family and own items of value, there is no time that is too early to fill out an estate planning questionnaire. 

If you start planning for your estate at an early age, don’t worry about your financial needs changing over time. Your advisor needs a baseline of information to work with to help you plan for your estate. As you get older, you may have new goals for your estate plan, and you may want to change your distribution of assets. That’s normal. In fact, your estate plan should be reviewed every three years, or after any major life event such as divorce or spousal death. 

What is generally included in an estate questionnaire? 

There are several types of questions your attorney may ask you in an estate questionnaire. Your answers to these questions can help your advisor understand your vision for your estate plan. 

The questions you receive may be divided into general categories. Some examples of questions and categories that may be included in your estate questionnaire include:

  1. Family 
  • What is your marital status? 
  • Have you or your spouse been married previously? To whom? What assets were transferred after divorce? 
  • Do you have children? If so, list their names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. 
  • Do you have minor children? If so, list those who you would like to assume guardianship in the event of your death. 
  • If you want to include grandchildren in your estate plan, please list their information. 
  • Do you want to disinherit any children or grandchildren?
  1. Distribution of assets
  • Do you want to distribute specific property and assets to specific beneficiaries like charities or other groups? 
  • Please name a power of attorney who will handle personal financial matters on your behalf, including trusts.
  • If you and your spouse wish to have a different asset distribution plan, please specify separate lists for each spouse.
  1. Financial information
  • Please describe the assets you own and the estimated value of each asset.
  • What is the estimated value of your estate?
  • How much income does each spouse earn on an annual basis?
  • How much debt do you and your spouse have?
  • What are your main goals regarding your estate plan?
  • What, if any, are your concerns about estate planning? 
  • Who is your current financial advisor and accountant, if applicable?

Where can you find the answers to an estate planning questionnaire?

The answers to your estate questionnaire can be found in many different places. Your children’s and grandchildren’s Social Security numbers can be found on their Social Security cards. If you don’t have access to these cards, Social Security numbers can be found on old tax records. 

Your estimated income can also be found on old tax records. In addition, you can pay a visit to your office’s HR department and speak to a representative about your specific income numbers. Meanwhile, you can check the amount of debt you owe on a recent credit report, which tracks what you owe and the payments you already made toward it.  

To estimate the individual values of your assets, you should start by creating an organized list. You can look up the current retail price of valuable items, like jewelry or precious metals. When it comes to cars, you should take your original payment into consideration while also incorporating depreciation, or its decrease in value over time. Your home value or equity is based on property values in your neighborhood and your home’s amenities. Many times, you can look up your current home value on a search engine. Lastly, you can add the amount of funds stored in your checking and savings accounts with the money linked to your trusts, life insurance policies, and investments.

Other answers to the estate questionnaire are your personal preference. For instance, how your assets get distributed is entirely up to you. If you don’t want a family member to take charge of your assets when you pass away, for example, you can appoint a non-family member to take over. Since these nuances are in your hands, it can be helpful to talk through your preferences with someone you trust, like a close friend or mentor. They may be able to offer advice from an objective point of view. 

What should you do if you are unsure about the estate planning questionnaire?

It can be completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the demands of an estate planning questionnaire. With so many questions that require research and specific numbers like income and debt, compiling the answers can take a while. 

To help lessen the stress, try following these tips while filling out your estate planning questionnaire: 

  • If any of the questions confuse or stump you, make a note to ask your financial advisor about them. You don’t have to know everything right now. 
  • Estate planning questionnaires can be involved and time consuming. To avoid feeling burnt out, try not to spend more than an hour at a time working on the questionnaire. 
  • Try working on the questionnaire with a spouse or family member. 
  • Remember that compiling this information will save you time in the long run. 
  • Let your attorney know about your concerns. 

Keep in mind that an estate planning questionnaire can help you compile information that you can use toward your wealth management plan. Wealth management is a holistic approach to financial planning, taking into account the following aspects: 

Talk to a ProVise CFP® professional about filling out an estate planning questionnaire

Are you ready to start planning and protecting your assets? At ProVise Management Group, our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals can get to know you and your current financial circumstances, goals, risk tolerance and personal values to help you develop a plan that works for you. We can also create a written plan for you at a fiduciary standard of care. All our written plans come with an unconditional money-back guarantee. If you are unhappy with your written plan, you can return it to us, and we will refund 100% of the fee paid.

Are you ready to talk to a professional about filling out an estate planning questionnaire? Contact ProVise today to schedule a complimentary consultation.