Getting Your Ducks In A Row: Estate Planning Checklist

Last updated on November 17, 2020

1. Documents
Do I have all the right documents — current will, durable power of attorney, and living will — in place to protect me and my heirs?

2. Assets
Who do I want to receive my assets when I die? Who should receive those assets if a beneficiary does not survive me?

3. Underage children
What should I have in place if I have a child under age 18? Have I named a guardian and an alternate guardian for the child and the child’s property until age 18? Should the child’s share be held in a trust until he or she reaches an older age, but be available for health, education, support, maintenance, and other important purposes?

4. Disabled beneficiaries
Is any beneficiary of my assets “disabled” (e.g., receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Food Stamps? Should I set up a “special needs trust” rather than have their share distributed outright, to avoid loss of the child’s government benefits?

5. Trusts
Are there any reasons why I should set up a trust for any beneficiary (e.g., grandchildren under age 25)?

6. Personal representative
Who should be the personal representative (i.e., the executor) and alternate personal representative of my estate?

7. Living trust
Should I have a “revocable living trust” to hold title to my nonretirement investment assets and any out-of-state real estate?

8. Beneficiaries on other accounts
Have I updated the primary and alternate beneficiaries listed on my retirement accounts and life insurance policies?

9. Personal assets
What assets do I own solely in my name, and not jointly with any other person, and do these assets have a “pay-on-death” beneficiary?

10. Gifts
Do I want to make any gifts to family members or to charities during my life or effective at my death? What type of gifts should I avoid making?

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