Estate Planning Checklist

To do estate planning doesn’t have to be rich; in fact, everyone needs some degree of estate planning. The estate includes everything someone owns and can be in any size, which is why it can be worth taking time to plan for what happens to it. Estate plans should be created for the particular needs of the individual.

The estate plan checklist provided in the current article will explain various types of estate planning documents, and assist you to evaluate those that will be valuable to you.

Even if you plan to hire an estate planning attorney, still you need to have a basic knowledge of what is involved.

Six steps to basic estate planning

1. Inventory your stuff

Maybe you think that you do not have that many assets to justify estate planning. However, when you begin to look around, you will get astonished by all the tangible and intangible assets you have.

The tangible properties in an estate can be including:

  • Homes, lands, and other real estates
  • Cars, motorcycles, and boat as well as other vehicles
  • Collectible objects like art, coins, antiques, and trading cards
  • Other personal properties

The intangible assets in an estate can be including:

  • Bank accounts like checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit
  • Mutual funds, bonds, and stocks
  • Health saving accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement plans like individual retirement accounts and workplace 401(k) plans
  • Ownership in a business

At the moment that you make a list of your tangible and intangible assets, you should calculate their value. An outside valuation can help for some assets such as:

  • § Statements from your financial accounts
  • § Recent appraisals of your home

In the lack of outside valuation, value your assets based on how you expect your inheritors will value them. In this way, you will assure that your possessions are divided fairly among your loved ones.

2. Account for your family’s needs

When you are informed of what is in your estate, you will consider how to protect your assets and your family in your absence.

If you are married and your current lifestyle needs dual income, having life insurance is very important. It will be even more important in case you have kids with functional needs or college tuition bills.

While writing your will, name a guardian and a backup guardian (just in case) for your children. It helps escape from expensive family court fights.

Write your wishes for your kids’ care. Do not assume that your family members will care about your children or raise them according to your ideas and goals. In case the issue goes to court the judge will not abide by your wishes.

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3. Establish your directives

A trust can be appropriate. You can determine parts of your estate to go toward specific things while you are alive. Your selected trustee can take over, in case you become ill or incapacitated. After your death, the trust properties transfer to your designated beneficiaries.

In case you become unable to decide on your medical care, a medical care directive, also called a living will explain your wishes for medical care. Regarding your health care, you can also give a trusted person the authority to make decisions in case you cannot. These two documents sometimes merged into one, named advance health care directive.

If you are medically unable to manage your financial affairs, a durable financial power of attorney enables someone else to do so. If you cannot act in legal and financial situations, your designated agent, as directed in the document can act on behalf of you. These acts include paying your taxes and bills and also accessing and managing your assets.

If the idea of turning over everything to someone else worries you, a limited power of attorney can be useful. This legal document imposes limits on the powers of your selected representative.

Attention about who you give power of attorney. They will actually have your financial well-being in their hands.

4. Review your beneficiaries

Check out insurance and retirement accounts. Insurance products and retirement plans generally have beneficiary designations that you should follow and update as needed.

Assure the right persons receive your assets. Sometimes people forget the beneficiaries they names on policies or accounts established years ago. For instance, if your ex-spouse is yet a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, it would be bad news for your current spouse.

Do not remain any beneficiary sections empty. If so, when an account goes through probate, it can be divided according to the state’s regulation for whom gets the property.

Define persons as contingent beneficiaries. These possible beneficiaries are very important if your primary beneficiary passes away before you do and you forget to update the primary beneficiary designation.

5. Weigh the value of expert help

You need whether hire an estate tax or attorney expert to assist build your estate plan.

In case your estate is small and your wishes are simple, an online will-writing program could be adequate for your requirements.

It can be valuable to consult an estate attorney and a tax advisor if possible, in case you have doubts about the process. They can guide you to the proper estate planning path, specifically in the state with estate or inheritance taxes.

For the complicated implications like a large and complex estate includes business issues, special child care, or non-familial heirs, an estate attorney and tax professional can help.

6. Plan to reassess

Once your circumstances change, revisit your estate plan. No matter these changes are bad or good they can be including the birth of a child, marriage or divorce, perish of a loved one or getting a new job.

Considering that laws may have changed, you need to revisit your estate plan periodically, even in non-changed circumstances.

Never drafting a plan at all, this is the biggest mistake in estate planning.


Making delays in estate planning can be very harmful. Although no one likes to think about dying, no planning and not being prepared can cause family disputes, assets getting into the wrong hands, long legal disputes, and extra money paid in estate taxes. So set a time to get started.

“If you have any feedback about the estate planning checklist that you have tried out or any questions about the ones that I have recommended, please leave your comments below!”

NB: The purpose of this website is to provide a general understanding of personal finance, basic financial concepts, and information. It’s not intended to advise on tax, insurance, investment, or any product and service. Since each of us has our own unique situation, you should have all the appropriate information to understand and make the right decision to fit with your needs and your financial goals. I hope that you will succeed in building your financial future.