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An Estate Planning Checklist

August 27, 2020 Advance Planning

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.

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