Your 2022 Estate Planning Checklist
Preparing an estate plan while still in good health is important for anyone wishing to create a smooth transition of assets upon death, communicate end-of-life preferences, and avoid family disputes about assets or wishes.
The following Estate Planning Checklist outlines steps for creating a plan. See our Glossary of terms before starting the process.
Estate Planning Checklist
Gather your Important Financial Documents
Insurance policies for life and disability insurance
- Financial account information: savings, retirement, and investments
- Mortgages, deeds, and titles
Take An Inventory of Your Belongings
Make a list of property that you can refer to while considering who to distribute assets to:
- Your home and any owned property
- Household furnishings
- Clothing, jewelry, accessories
Prepare a Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament provides details about who receives what assets after death and provides the following:
- Names the person you have chosen as the executor of your estate
- Designates who will get property that hasn't been handled through joint ownership or beneficiary designation
- Appoints a guardian of your minor children.
See our information on simple vs complex wills for a comparison on the types of wills.
Choose a Trusted Executor for Your Estate
This important individual will be responsible for ensuring the stipulations in your will are carried out according to your wishes and should be someone you trust to have your best interests at heart. Look for a trusted individual who is responsible and mentally able to deal with estate complexities. It's wise to name an alternate executor if for any reason your executor can't carry out their duties.
Consider if a Living Trust is Right for You
A living trust is similar to a will in that you decide how your assets are distributed, but unlike a will, a living trust can allow your heirs to avoid probate court. A trust can also be more intricate. More info about probate can be found at “Understanding Probate”
Create a Living Will
Also known as an advance directive, a living will clarifies decisions on end-of-life care such as life-prolonging medical treatment you do or do not want given in the event you become terminally ill or injured and are unable to communicate your wishes. Preferences for breathing assistance, supplemental feeding, medications and treatment, and palliative care are addressed.
Prepare a Power of Attorney (POA)
A power of attorney document appoints someone you trust to handle your financial or medical affairs in the event you are mentally unable to make decisions for yourself. See our blog “What Is Power of Attorney”. A POA can either become effective immediately or in the future.
Prepare a Guide for Your Executors
The guide should give the location of documents needed to clearly identify and locate your financial accounts, insurance policies, credit cards, vehicle loans and mortgages
The guide should also list:
- Contact information for relatives and close friends to be notified of your death
- Locations of any assets previously unaccounted for (safe deposit boxes, storage units, etc.)
- Instructions regarding your desires for burial, cremation, funeral ceremonies, organ donation, etc.
It’s important to provide easy access to your will and your durable powers of attorney. Keep signed original copies in your attorney’s office, in a fireproof file at home, and give a signed copy to your executor.
Review Your Documents For Changes
Periodically revisit all of your estate planning documents to make sure everything is up-to-date. Life changes that could affect your estate plan include births, deaths, marriages, divorces