The 8-Point Estate Plan Checklist

Congress, state legislatures and the courts are constantly changing the estate-planning rulebook. Make sure your estate plan covers all your bases.

Check your current estate plan against our 8-point checklist:

  • Do you have a will or trust in place, with appropriate provisions and people named?
  • Do you have a health care power of attorney?
  • Does your current estate plan take recent tax changes into account?
  • Have you worked with an attorney to avoid possible will contests and disputes?
  • Are you satisfied with the persons you've named as guardians of your minor children?
  • Does your current plan provide creditor and lawsuit protection for assets passed to beneficiaries?
  • If you have a revocable living trust in place, is it fully funded?
  • Does your estate plan protect your children's inheritance in the event your surviving spouse chooses to remarry?

What Your Estate Plan Should Include

Even if you have an estate plan in place, it may be incomplete and the most important subjects might not be addressed. How can you be sure that you've created a sound plan? Start with an estate planning attorney who can connect you with other professionals as necessary.

Here are the high points your estate plan should include:

  • A will
  • A durable power of attorney for business and health care decisions
  • A revocable trust — to transfer, manage and distribute assets while you're alive and to avoid full probate after your death
  • Any other kinds of trusts you may find useful
  • A list of assets
  • Instructions regarding the point at which you do not want to be resuscitated
  • A legacy letter - this is an "ethical will," intended to pass ethical values from one generation to the next
  • Selection of someone to make medical decisions, if needed
  • Instructions regarding how you want your assets distributed
  • A guardian decision for minor children
  • Instructions on how to handle your digital legacy
  • Letters to your family — your wishes should you need to be removed from life support, for example

Your ultimate goal is to make the emotional, legal and financial issues surrounding your death as easy as possible for your heirs to manage.


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