It is hard to write an estate planning checklist. Different people want different things.
So, I will outline the process, not the documents needed for a plan.
- Take an inventory of what you own and what you owe. Write down the major things you own and how much you owe on each. Write down who you owe it to. This includes things you might not think of like your retirement accounts and life insurance. Gather up the paperwork, policies, contracts, etc.
- Visit with an estate planning attorney. You should be able to find a local, competent attorney that will meet with you. (Note: Steps 1 and 2 can be reversed)
- Decide who will play what roles in your plan. You’ll need to decide who will be your agent in your Durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney. You’ll need to make some end of life with dignity decisions.
- Turn in your organizer (step 3) along with all the paperwork from step 1 to your estate planning attorney.
- The attorney will draft the documents and create summaries. You should get a copy of the summaries to check for correctness. Once everything is like you want, then the attorney will finalize the documents.
- Sign. On signing day, you’ll get any last minute questions answered and sign your documents.
- Fund. If you created a trust, you’ll have some work to do at the bank and with your financial advisor to move funds to the trust.
- Create a contact list. This often forgotten step will assist your family in knowing who to call in case of emergency. This list should go in your planning notebook.
- Review. Every few years take it out and review it.
That is my take on an estate planning checklist.
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