The handy dandy super easy estate planning checklist

/ January 17, 2013

Make this your new year’s resolution.  Or don’t.  Either way, these six things should give you peace of mind that your family and friends will not struggle through the probate process.

1. Make a list of your stuff

Create a simple list of your assets with corresponding values – use a ballpark value if you don’t know exactly what something is worth.  Include items such as your home, cars, bank accounts, and tangible items such as jewelry, clothing, and furniture.  If you own any of the items with another individual make a notation * next to that asset or account.  If you own any other real estate or business interests, include this information ** as well.

2. Add a little detail

Type a more detailed list of your finances including investment, checking, saving, IRA, life insurance, homeowners insurance, car insurance, etc.  Include the brokerage firm name, bank branch address, and/or your financial advisor’s contact information, if applicable.  Print this list and handwrite the passwords or if this makes you nervous, handwrite a code or clue to the passwords for each account.  Store your list in a secure but accessible place.  Click here for more details on secure passwords.

3. Include Internet sites

Type a list of the web addresses for all of your internet accounts: email, social networking, picture and document storage websites, shopping sites, and if you do not receive paper bank statements, include a list of your online bank account and credit card sites.  If you own a business, make a separate list of these items for your business.  Print the list.  Handwrite your passwords or codes to passwords.  Store the list in a secure place.

4. Reach out and trust someone

Select someone you trust to help with the administration of your estate. Talk to this person. Tell them how they can access all of your important personal and financial information, including the above lists.

5. Sprinkle in some life insurance

If you can afford it, buy life insurance to cover your debts and to support any family or friends who are financially dependent on you.  If your beneficiaries are your minor children, complete #6 below to name someone who will manage the life insurance proceeds (and to name a guardian).  Even if you don’t have beneficiaries under the age of 18, complete #6 anyway.

6. The finishing touch

Call an estate planning attorney and make an appointment. While there are resources for do-it-yourself wills, a software program cannot replace the advice of a real life lawyer.  Your lawyer will create your legal documents based upon the type and value of your assets, your intentions for those assets, and the laws that apply to your estate.

By going through #1-5, you will be well on the way to a comprehensive estate plan.  If the trusted person in #4 knows where to find all of your important information, so much of the stress and hassle involved in estate administration can be avoided.  Then use your attorney to make it all legal.  Go on now, get it done.


Image credit to Shutterstock for colorful checklist.