Estate Planning Checklist

Information verified correct on December 8th, 2016

Things You Shouldn’t Forget on Estate Planning

Getting your estate in order is very important for various reasons. Not only is it the only way to ensure that whatever is rightfully theirs goes to your legal heirs, but estate planning is also vital to protect your assets and your property from unnecessary estate taxes that may be levied upon your death. Yes, death is a topic that most people are uncomfortable talking about. But since it is an inevitable outcome in every person’s life, it is important to take care of legal matters when we are alive so that our families and loved ones can be protected. Planning your estate right down to the last detail will enable you to do just that.

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Estate Planning Checklist: Vital Things to Take Care Of

When you are planning your estate, it is easy to forget about various items that should be a part of your estate planning. Most people believe that since they do not have too many assets, estate planning is not necessary for them. However, regardless of the size of your estate, it is vital that you sort things out for your heirs. Therefore, here is a checklist of essential items that everyone should deal with when planning their estates.

  • Physical assets: This is an obvious inclusion in estate planning and is usually where most people start. You need to prepare a detailed list of all the physical items that you own that can be deemed as assets. Obvious inclusions are a house, any other property that you own, cars and vehicles, as well as expensive art. However, experts suggest that you should make a list of any physical item that is greater than $100 in value. Hence, you should also list other items such as your laptops and computers, electronic devices such as televisions, home theatre systems etc, as well as an itemised list of all the jewellery that you own.
  • Non-physical assets: Once you have listed all your physical assets, you should move on to creating a list of non-physical assets. This includes all bank accounts that you may have; personal as well as business related. If you own shares in any company, then those should be listed too. Along with listing the necessary items, do remember to list the names of the respective banks and companies too, as well as all your detailed account information.
  • Review all your retirement plans: Another vital aspect of estate planning is a review of all your retirement solutions. This includes pensions, superannuation funds, annuities, as well as insurance policies. You need to review each of these in turn to ensure that everything is up to date and all contributions and premiums are being paid properly. You should also check the nominations in each case to ensure that the right people are nominated to receive the benefits upon your death.
  • List your liabilities: Planning an estate is not just about going through your assets and dividing them between your heirs. You also need to make a list of all your liabilities so that they can be dealt with in the right manner from your estate income. Liabilities include any loans that may be pending such as a home loan, car loans, business loans etc. You should also make a list of all your credit cards along with the balances due on all of them. Once you have listed all your liabilities, you need to specify how you want them to be paid off in the event of your death.
  • Make a Will: Once you have made a list of all your assets and liabilities, you should get a formal will prepared. The distribution of your assets after paying off your liabilities should be clearly mentioned in the will. If you have any special bequests, you can include these in your will too.
  • Choose an executor: This is another vital aspect of estate planning. Since you will not be around to see your Will being carried out, it is necessary to appoint a person as executor of your will. This person will ensure that all your wishes are carried out as per your will. When appointing an executor, you need to choose a person who is responsible and who is extremely trustworthy. It is best to choose someone who is not a beneficiary under the terms of your will.
  • Setting up a trust: If you have a particularly large estate, you may want to think about setting up a trust to manage your estate. This can often be the smarter thing to do than creating a will as there is no probate to contend with. You can choose to manage the trust on your own till you are alive, or you can appoint a trustee who manages the trust as per your wishes, upon your death.
  • Advanced medical directive: Many people nowadays choose to create a document known as an Advanced Medical Directive when planning their estates. This document is a list of medical directions that you want carried out should you become incapable of taking such decisions on your own.
  • Power of attorney: This is another type of legal document that helps in estate planning. A Power Of Attorney is basically a document that gives another person the power to manage your affairs in your absence or if you are medically unfit to do so.
  • Ensuring proper documentation: One of the most essential parts of estate planning is proper documentation. Once you have prepared all the lists and documents as mentioned above, you need to sign them properly in the presence of witnesses and then send the documents to your executor or administrator for safekeeping. You should also keep one copy of all the documents with yourself and another copy with your lawyers if possible. In the event of your death, these documents will be used to carry out your wishes for your estate.
  • Periodic updating of documents: A person’s estate is forever changing till they are alive and working, and so is their family. Therefore, you should review all your estate planning documents every few years and update them as and when required. For instance, if a new child has been welcomed into the family, you may want to include that child as a beneficiary under your estate. Hence, by updating the important documents every few years, you can make sure that the plans for your estate always reflect your wishes.

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