Any financial advisor and attorney will agree that estate planning is crucial. And it goes beyond drafting a will. A thorough estate plan includes all of your assets along with a clear plan for transferring those assets to the people or entities you want to receive them upon your passing. Let’s walk through a checklist of what should be included in your estate plan.
- Make a list of all the valuable items you own, including your home, vehicles, electronics, collectibles, antiques, jewelry, and other costly items. Include a note if you have someone in mind who you’d like to receive a specific item.
- Add your non-tangible assets, such as bank accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, and insurance policies, to the list. Be sure to include account numbers and the locations of any physical documents.
- Make a separate list of your open credit cards and other debts, such as auto loans and mortgages. Include account numbers as well as the locations of any necessary documents.
- Make note of any organizations you belong to, such as AARP or VA, as well as charitable organizations you support.
- Make copies of these lists and distribute them to your financial advisor, attorney, spouse, and safety deposit box. Keep a copy for yourself and put it in a safe place.
- Review the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and make sure they are up to date. The designations associated with the account overrule what is laid out in your will.
- Make sure all of your insurance policies and annuities have the most up-to-date beneficiary designations.
- If possible, set up transfer on death (TOD) designations for your savings accounts, CD accounts, and individual brokerage accounts. This may save them from going through probate.
- Choose an estate administrator or executor who you trust to be in charge of carrying out your will upon your passing.
- Draft a will either with the help of an attorney or on your own. Everyone over the age of 18 should have a will, but it is especially important for adults who have children and/or a home.
- Review your lists, accounts, and documents regularly, especially in the event of a major life change, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, and so on.
- Provide a copy to the administrator once your will is finalized, signed, witnessed, and notarized. The original will should be kept in a safe place at your home or at your attorney’s office.
- Consult with an estate planning attorney and/or a financial advisor, especially if you drafted your will on your own. They can provide extra guidance and ensure you’ve covered all your bases.
- Consolidate your finances and retirement accounts to simplify your investments and make them easier to manage.
- Complete other important documents, including financial and medical powers of attorney and a living will. You can also include a letter of instruction with your will and provide your wishes for your funeral and digital assets, like social media accounts.
Read More: Advance Planning vs. Medicaid Planning for Long-Term Care
No matter where you are in the estate planning process, you also want to consider your future care and develop a long-term care plan. As always, we recommend working with an attorney.