ESTATE PLANNING QUESTIONNAIRE
Our questionnaire is designed to provide a comprehensive
understanding of your family and its financial situation. To
better understand the process, and why we ask what we do, we have
designed this page.
The questionnaire should develop the most complete financial
picture possible with regard to income and assets, as well as
expenses and liabilities. It is important to identify the owner of
assets and the type of ownership.
For example, joint ownership may provide planning opportunities
that do not exist access with individually owned property. Joint
ownerrship of bank accounts may avoid the necessity of initiating
a guardianship proceeding. Thus, the simple act of finding out the
type of ownership of assets can materially alter the direction of
In addition to listing income, it is necessary to list the source
of the income, to whom the income is paid and the method of
payment (check or direct deposit). The attorrney must also know
where the income is deposited. For example, if the icome is a
Social Secrreutiy reitrement bbenefit, is the monthly Social
Securtiy payment receive in check form or bby direct deposit?
Also, where is the monthly payment deposited?
Health and Long Term Care Insurance
Health insurance is another area which should be developed in the
questionnaire. The most common health insurance plan for senior
citizens is Medicare. The attorney must determine whether the
client has Medicare Parts A and/or B, or C or any other Medicare
Having learned that the client is insured by Medicare, the
attorney must next determine whether the client is enrolled in a
Medicare Advantage (HMO or PPO) or has a Medicare supplemental
insurance policy (sometimes referred to as a “Medigap policy”).
If at all possible, the client should bring his or her
supplemental insurance policy for review. These policies can vary
widely as to benefits, including covering Medicare deductibles and
co- insurance. For example, some older AARP policies will cover
the cost of skilled nursing home care beyond the 100-day Medicare
limit, up to a maximum of 365 days. Only a policy review will
provide this information, which may be essential for long term
If the client does not have a Medicare prescription drug plan, the
reason may be that the client has other health insurance that
provides prescription drug coverage, which may or may not have
been listed on the questionnaire.
Income Tax Returns. The attorney should
review the last three years’ federal income tax returns of the
client. The attorney will be able to identify any discrepancies
from one return to the others and have the client account for any
differences. Unrevealed assets and income sources may be
discovered by simply reviewing copies of income tax returns. For
example, schedule “B” of the Federal Income Tax Return (Form 1040)
may reveal income sources not listed on the questionnaire. The
attorney can also identify assets that have vanished from one tax
return to the next one. It is important to analyze these asset
changes and determine what was done with those assets. It is also
useful to contact the family accountant and/or financial advisor
whenever possible. Client approval should be obtained before
contacting any third party information source. Such third parties
can often fill in gaps in the client’s financial condition.
Advance Directives. Whereas prior income tax
returns can identify assets and transfers, advance directives,
such as a Power of Attorney, can provide access to assets and
income belonging to a client without capacity. It is therefore
necessary to request and examine any Powers of Attorney signed by
the client. Determine whether the Power of Attorney is valid,
durable, and statutory and who is designated as the
Request and review any existing health care directives executed by
the client. A valid Health Care Proxy or Living Will can assure
that the client’s health care wishes will be identified and
followed, which may not happen in the absence of such documents.
Long Term Care Insurance. A client may have
long term care insurance, covering nursing home, assisted living
and home care. There are many variations in long term care
insurance policies that it is essential to review the policy
Wills and Trusts. The attorney must also ask
for and review any existing Wills executed by the client and his
or her spouse to ascertain the testamentary plan of the client.
This will help the attorney determine whether the plan for an
incapacitated client conforms to the client’s previously expressed
intent and whether the Will needs to be updated.
The Will of a spouse must be reviewed to determine, whether the
spouse’s Will may alter or negate the attorney’s recommendations
regarding long term care planning in the event the well spouse
predeceases the ill spouse.
Any existing Trust, revocable or irrevocable, executed by the
client or the client’s spouse must also be requested and reviewed.
As a testamentary substitute, these instruments can identify the
client’s testamentary plan. A Trust may also provide income and/or
assets to a client or a client’s spouse that would materially
affect the Medicaid eligibility of the client.
The attorney should ask whether a client was previously divorced.
If so, a copy of the divorce decree should be obtained and
reviewed. The decree may identify an entitlement or an obligation
of the client or the client’s former spouse. The attorney may also
find a waiver regarding the right to inherit from the former
If the client is in a second marriage, ask if a pre-or postnuptial
agreement was signed, and if so, a copy must be obtained and
reviewed. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements often include
mutual waivers of the marital elective share of the estate of the
spouse. This could be valuable planning information in situations
where one spouse requires long term care and the attorney is
recommending a plan to protect the assets of that spouse.