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Estate Planning To-Do List

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Posted on Oct 17, 2012 | Share this post: Like Us on Facebook Join Us on Google Follow Us on Twitter

It’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week, and the folks behind it say that more than 120 million Americans don’t have an up-to-date estate plan.  You probably know if you are among those millions, but you might not.  Do you have these crucial documents: A will (and in some cases a trust), a health care power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney?  Even if you have them, a tune-up might be in order.  An estate plan is like a lot of things in life, once you get one, it requires some occasional maintenance.  Every few years, or anytime a significant event happens in your life, review your plan to ensure it still makes sense.  In honor of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, here’s a checklist to help ensure your plan is up-to-date and functional.

Your will or trust. 

  • Do you know where the original is?
  • Does it name the correct:
    • Beneficiaries
    • Personal Representatives (PR or Executor)
    • Trustees
    • Guardians
  • Charitable bequests:
    • Are the charities specifically identified?
    • Are they still appropriate?
    • Are there any you would like to add?
  • Trust-Funding:
    • Have assets be retitled in the name of the trust?
  • Does your PR/Executor have key information, such as where your original will is and whom they need to  contact?  Keep in mind if the  original is in a safe deposit box, it will be secure, but your Personal Representative may not be able to access it!

Health care power of attorney and/or living will.

  • Are the agents named still appropriate?
  • Are your wishes specifically articulated?
  • Does your agent have a copy?

Financial power of attorney.

  • Are the agents still appropriate?
  • Does it enable your agent(s) to make gifts on your behalf; if not, should it?
  • Does it have provisions to ensure appropriate benefits for your spouse, dependent children, and pets?

Beneficiary designations.  (VERY IMPORTANT because your will does not affect these. Specific designations trump the will.)

  • Do the designations reflect your current wishes?
    • IRA and 401(k) accounts
    • Jointly owned or pay on death accounts
    • Life insurance

Information for Agent.  To assist your agent, provide him or her with the following information or with directions as to where to locate the information:

  • Investment accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Usernames and Passwords for accounts
  • Insurance policies (life, disability, homeowners, vehicle, long-term care)
  • Income sources (pension, stock buy-outs)
  • Government benefits (Social Security, military benefits)
  • Income Tax Return or CPA information
  • Name of estate planning attorney
  • Name of primary care physician
  • Health Insurance information
  • List of medications

Letter of Instruction.  Provide funeral wishes; contact information for key people; location of important papers or valuable items you may have put away for safekeeping; location of spare keys and security codes; care instructions for pets, name of veterinarian.