Is There a Lot of Prep Work Before I See an Estate Lawyer?
Yes and no.
Your first step is to set that appointment. Once you have your appointment, your lawyer will probably send you a form to fill out listing your assets and how you would like them distributed. However, if you don’t fill out of the form, don’t cancel your appointment. Most people don’t have terribly complicated assets; your lawyer can breeze through the form with you during the first fifteen minutes of your appointment.
You don’t even have to know exactly how much is in each account. Generally, your lawyer won’t want to talk about dollars and cents too much. Because exact dollar amounts change easily with time, your lawyer will want to know about percentages. Obviously, if you have some exact dollar amounts you want to give away (like $1,000 to your nephew) then it’s good to have those written down. Otherwise, you will be diving your estate into percentages (like 20% to each child).
A proper estate plan will take time. Your lawyer will probably need about two weeks after the initial meeting to prepare the documents. During that time, you and your lawyer will refine the will until it’s ready to be signed.