Estate Planning Checklist: 10 Things to Do Before You Pass Away


Don’t make the mistake of not having an estate planning checklist…find out why!

Estate planning is an important yet often overlooked aspect of preparing for the future. As youngsters, we usually don’t like to think about matters as serious as death, but ensuring our loved ones are taken care of is a burden we can’t afford to ignore.

Visualize this checklist as your roadmap for peace of mind. It’s not about dwelling on morbid thoughts but more about securing your legacy and protecting those you care about most.

From designating beneficiaries to writing a will, our list covers all the bases, ensuring that your wishes are honored and your assets are allocated according to your wishes. Think of it as providing clarity and direction during a challenging time.

While your estate may not be as large or complex as the so-called rich and famous, it’s just as important to have a plan for when you pass away. By addressing these critical tasks now, you’re making things easier for yourself and your family and loved ones.

So, let’s embark on this journey together and take control of our futures with Easy Senior Club’s ultimate estate planning checklist.

Estate Planning Checklist
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Estate planning checklist item #1: Make a list of debts

Make a separate list for all your credit cards and any other obligations. This can include mortgages, auto loans, home equity lines of credit, and any other debts or open credit you might have.

Write down the location of signed agreements, account numbers, and the contact information of the companies where you owe this debt. Remember to include all your credit cards, noting which ones you use regularly and which are sitting in a drawer for a rainy day.

This chore can be made more accessible by attaching a recent statement or document detailing vital account information. It’s typically a good practice to run a free credit report on yourself every year.

This will also help identify any credit cards you might have forgotten you even have.

Estate planning checklist item #2: Go over your retirement accounts

Policies and accounts that have designated beneficiaries will pass directly to those people or entities when you pass away. Be aware that it doesn’t matter how you direct these policies or accounts to be distributed in your will or trust.

If there’s a dispute, the beneficiary designations associated with the retirement account will take priority. Check your online account or plan administrator for the most recent listing of your beneficiary selections for every account.

Go over them to ensure they’re current. This is particularly important if you have ever divorced and remarried.

Estate planning checklist item #3: Record your non-physical investments

Add your financial assets and entitlements to this list, with enough details that your heirs can claim them. This includes bank and brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, 401(k) plans, IRAs, and other policies.

This also includes things like long-term care, auto, homeowners, disability, and health insurance. Add the account numbers and specify the location of any physical documents you own. List the contact information for the firms holding these non-physical possessions.

If it makes it more straightforward, attach a recent statement or another paper document that shows the necessary information like company, account number, and contact information.

Estate planning checklist item #4: Update your insurance policies

As with retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance will pass directly to your named heirs. If you have life insurance, ensure your beneficiaries are up to date and listed accurately.

Concerning timing, this might be the most critical part of your estate plan. Your inheritors will need immediate access to some of your assets to plan your funeral and their daily needs.

Estate planning checklist item #5: Make a list of any memberships you have

If you belong to organizations like The American Legion, AARP, a veteran’s association, a professional accreditation association, or a college alum group, write them down.

In some cases, these organizations might offer their members accidental life insurance benefits, and your heirs could be eligible to collect. Be sure to include any other charitable organizations you support.

You can let your inheritors know which charitable organizations or causes are dear to your heart and which you would like donations to go to in your honor.

On your estate planning checklist, please note any automatic donations you make on a regular basis to any charitable organizations so that your heirs can either cancel them or continue them.

Estate Planning Checklist
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Estate planning checklist item #6: Authorize “transfer on death” designations

Depending on your particular state’s laws, your beneficiaries might undergo a probate court procedure before your assets can be distributed. Probate is always required if a person passes away before making a will.

This process, in which your assets are distributed by court instruction, can be expensive and very time-consuming. Many of them, like CD accounts, bank savings, and individual brokerage accounts, are unnecessarily probated daily.

If you have any of these accounts, they can be amended or set up to have a transfer on death designation, which allows the inheritors to receive the assets without going through the probate procedure. You can contact your bank or custodian to set this up on your accounts.

Estate planning checklist item #7: Itemize any inventory you might have

To begin, go through your home inside and out and make a list of all your valuable items. Examples can include the home, jewelry, collectibles, televisions and computers, vehicles, art and antiques, lawn equipment, and power tools.

Along the way, add any notes if you come across something that you want to leave to a particular individual. Don’t leave out possessions of mainly sentimental value, like family pictures.

Make a list of things you want to donate to your favorite charity on your estate planning checklist. You can even take photographs to shortcut the project and avoid any confusion.

Estate planning checklist item #8: Choose a responsible estate administrator

Your estate executor or administrator will be in charge of administering your will when you pass away. You must select a person who you feel is competent and responsible for making these types of decisions. Your partner may not necessarily be the best choice.

Consider how the emotions related to your end will affect this person’s decision-making capability. If you anticipate any issues, choose other qualified individuals. You may prefer to name another family member or a close friend you trust to act impartially on your behalf.

Estate planning checklist item #9: Visit a financial planner or estate attorney

You might think you’ve covered all your bases, but consulting a specialist on a total investment and insurance plan is always a good idea. And if it’s been a while, you should review your strategy. As you grow older, your needs tend to change.

This includes figuring out if you need long-term care insurance or protecting your estate from a significant tax bill and lengthy court processes. Professionals are up to date on changes in legislation and estate or income tax laws, which could affect your bequests.

Estate Planning Checklist
Photo by William Potter at Shutterstock

Estate planning checklist item #10: Draft your will

Everyone that’s over the age of 18 should have a will. It’s the rulebook for distributing your assets and could prevent chaos among your heirs. It’s best if you do it as soon as you’ve prepared all the documentation we mentioned.

Your list of assets will make it more effortless to decide who gets what. A will can also name a guardian if you have any minor children and designate who should take care of your pets. You can also note assets you want to leave to charitable organizations through your will, too.

They’re fairly inexpensive estate-planning documents to draw up. For instance, many attorneys can help you draft a will for less than $1,000, depending on your assets’ complexity and geographic location. You can even write your own will with online services.

Just ensure you date and sign your will before two non-related witnesses, who should also sign the document. Then, have it notarized. Also, make sure other individuals know the document’s location so they can access it when needed.

We hope you found this estate planning checklist helpful. Please be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

And if you liked this article, you might want to check out: 9 Financial Challenges Retirees Will Face in the Next 5 Years

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