Estate Planning Checklist

Christmas season is upon us and I’m sure that nothing is more top of mind for most people than their estate plans.

Ok I’m kidding obviously, but this actually does highlight a point that people are more concerned with buying and receiving presents than they are with making sure their personal affairs are in order and their loved ones are taken care of.

Would it be too crazy to suggest that you take care of your loved ones as a present to them this holiday season?

Your estate plan is a vital piece of your financial security and if it’s not in order, you really can’t afford to wait until the New Year to get things squared away. With that in mind, I’ve put together a simple checklist to help you review your situation and to see if you need to make any changes:

1) Draw up a summary of your complete financial picture. This document can be an evolving one that you can add to as needed but should include details of every bank account, insurance policy, investment account, loan, credit card, utilities account, etc that you hold. Having everything in one convenient spot will make it much easier for your executors to ensure they haven’t missed something.

2) Do you have a current will, power of attorney and health representative agreement documents? These documents are a must for everyone and if you don’t have them (or if they’re not current), you really can’t delay getting them prepared even one more day. I hear many people say that they have some upcoming changes so they’re “waiting until the changes are done” before setting these documents up. An estate document can be set up now with contingencies built in and can also be amended as needed down the road. There is really no reason that you should wait!

3) Review your life insurance needs. Do you have adequate insurance coverage to take care of your estate taxes, charitable aspirations and other expenses? If not, should you look into amending your coverage? Life insurance still remains the cheapest and most tax efficient way to pass on money to your beneficiaries if you are in a position to set a plan up.

4) Let someone know. Once you have your financial summary and estate documents in place and updated, make sure to let someone (or better yet two people) know where they can find a copy. There’s no use having these documents if nobody can find them after you pass away…

5) Consult and retain appropriate professionals. Depending on your unique situation, your estate plan may have many moving parts. Make sure to consult with professional advisors on a regular basis to get advice on how your estate plan should be structured and to see if any changes need to be made. A lawyer, accountant and/or financial planner can help you build an estate plan that’s right for your needs. You might feel that your estate is in good shape but these professionals might be able to offer some alternative strategies to maximize the estate’s value and minimize the complexity and confusion of handling your affairs.

That’s it! There are just five easy steps to review and see where you stand. If you find yourself coming up short in any or all of these areas, make sure to take action today to get your estate plan back on track.