Estate planning is not just filling in a form will, trust instrument, or power of attorney. Every individual has different needs, varied assets, and a different tax situation.

We start the estate planning process (with emphasis on the PLANNING) by asking our clients to complete an Estate Planning Questionnaire. This allows our clients to provide us with basic information about themselves, the nature of their assets, and their preferences as to executors, trustees, guardians, agents, heirs, and other key matters. Using this information, we can determine how best to plan to protect their assets during their lives, and to transfer their assets at their death to their loved ones, with the minimum of expense and taxes.

Below is a copy of our Estate Planning Questionnaire, which you can use to help organize your estate plan.
PDF version (1197kb)

Key Terms

Tenants by the entireties - Property owned by husband and wife jointly; can only be transferred with both spouses' consent; at death, it passes to surviving spouse.


Probate Assets - Assets which are titled in your own name, and do not have any contract provision (in trust for, payable on death, beneficiary designation) which provides who will inherit the property at your death. Probate assets pass under your will to the persons you specify in the shares you specify. If you do not have a will, the Intestate Law of the state in which you are domiciled (reside) governs who will inherit your property.

Joint Tenant with Right of Survivorship - Property owned by two or more persons, in equal interests, that passes to the surviving joint tenants at death. Absent a written agreement, any joint tenant can transfer their interest to whomever they choose..

Non-probate Assets - Assets which pass automatically pursuant to the terms of a contract. Examples: A trust which specifies who the beneficiary will be upon death. A life insurance policy or retirement account which specifies a beneficiary. A bank account, stock or real estate owned as "tenants by the entireties" or as "joint tenants with right of survivorship". An "in trust for" or "payable on death" account. These assets pass outside your will.

Tenant in Common- Property owned by two or more persons. Each owns an undivided interest in the whole. Shares can vary. A person's tenant in common interest passes at their death to their heirs under their will or by intestate succession. It does not pass automatically to the other tenant in common.

Disclaimer - The document an heir can file with the local court which provides that they do NOT want to inherit a probate or non-probate asset. It is common to disclaim assets to save inheritance or estate taxes (or to protect assets from creditors) by allowing the assets to pass to the next person in line under a will or contract.