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Estate Planning Checklist

This estate planning checklist will help you identify what you need to do to protect your wealth and ensure its smooth distribution according to your wishes.

You will need to contact a lawyer, preferably an Elder Law Attorney, to make a solid estate plan.

Remember, the estate plan is your plan, even though an attorney prepares it for you. Be sure you are satisfied with it.

Purpose Of An Estate Plan

There are four major objectives of estate planning. You want to communicate your wishes, protect your family, reduce your taxes, and protect your business.

Estate planning is very complex and is an ongoing process, especially because things in life continually change.

Estate Planning Tools

A Durable Power of Attorney lets you name who you want to manage your property in case you become incapacitated.

An Advanced Medical Directive provides medical directive if you become unable to make your own decisions. There are three different documents that can be created - Do Not Resuscitate order, Health Care Power of Attorney, or Living Will.

Another document, called The Five Wishes, is considered a combination of all three. It specifies who should make health care decisions, the kind of treatment wanted or not wanted, how comfortable a person wants to be, how a person wants to be treated, and what the person wants their loved ones to know.

A Will designates how your estate (money and property) are to be distributed.

A Trust specifies who will manage the assets during your lifetime and in the event of your death. Often during your lifetime, you and your spouse would manage it. Use of a trust transfers assets more cost effectively than a will, as probate is avoided.

Estate Planning Terms

Your estate is your taxable estate (financial interest minus debts) and your probate estate (assets covered in your will).

Estate taxes are owed generally nine months after death on the net value of the taxable estate in excess of the specified amount that is estate tax free.

The Executor is the person you appoint to settle your estate in accordance with your estate planning documents.

A Trustee is the person who controls the assets in a trust.

The Principal is the value of assets in a trust (i.e. stocks), whereas, income is money derived from some of the principal assets (i.e. dividends on stocks).

A Beneficiary is someone designated to receive some or all of your assets upon your death.

Probate is the court procedure to transfer assets from you to your beneficiaries upon your death.

Estate Planning Checklist
Discussion With An Attorney

When you make an appointment with an attorney to discuss estate planning, often they will send you some forms to fill out prior to the appointment.

Here is an estate planning checklist of the type of information the attorney will be requesting.

  1. Your Personal & Family Information - names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, and citizenship status for you, your spouse, and all children
  2. Your Personal & Family Assets
    • Real Estate - location, how title is held, Fair Market Value, Mortgage Amount
    • Personal & Household Belongings
    • Cash/Checking/Savings, CD's Pensions, Life Insurance, etc. including the names of the banks or companies
    • Business Interests
    • Investment Assets
    • Other Interests (Trusts, Anticipated Inheritance, Other Assets)
  3. Liabilities
  4. Personal Estate Planning Objectives (Disposition of Assets, income from Assets, Overriding Wishes)
  5. Who you choose for Guardian, Executor, and Trustees

Information Your Executor Will Need

When your executor needs to fulfill his duties to settle your estate he/she will need to have access to:
  • Your will
  • Your trust
  • Insurance Policies
  • Real Estate Deeds
  • Certificates for Stocks, Bonds, and Annuities
  • Information on Bank Accounts, Mutual Funds, and Safe Deposit Boxes
  • Information on Retirement Plans, 401K's, and IRA's
  • Information on Debts: Credit Cards, Mortgages and Loans, Utilities, and Unpaid Taxes
  • Information on funeral prepayment plans, and any final instructions you have given


The information provided on this website is for informative purposes only. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice for your specific estate planning situation from a Certified Elder Law Attorney.

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