Estate Planning Checklist

When planning your estate you should make sure you:

  • Itemize physical and financial assets
  • List out debts
  • Copy and distribute lists
  • Review and update accounts
  • Choose an appropriate administrator
  • Draft and notarize a will (and other important documents)
  • Check-in with an estate attorney

 

Itemize Your Physical and Financial Assets

Before you can decide what you want to do with your estate you need to create lists outlining everything. You might be surprised how much you have, especially when you look at everything on paper, but going through and identifying each asset allows you to create a designation for an easier transfer.

Physical assets to pay attention to include:

  • Your home (and any other real estate)
  • Vehicles
  • Lawn care equipment
  • Power tools
  • Technology
  • Appliances
  • Collectibles
  • Jewelry
  • Art and/or antiques

When it comes to financial assets you need to locate any physical documents and account numbers for:

  • Brokerage accounts
  • Retirement plans
  • Bank accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Other insurance policies

On the list make sure you also note any contact information that is relevant to the firms and institutions holding your money and information. These will help you out in the later stages of estate planning, and they can make it easiest for any administrator that you appoint.

 

List Your Debts

Debts like outstanding credit card balances and other financial obligations need to be acknowledged. These include:

  • Auto loans
  • Mortgages
  • Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs)

Include account numbers, where you keep the agreements, and the contact information of the companies that hold the debt.

 

Copy and Distribute These Lists

You should make copies of these lists to distribute to anyone involved in the distribution of your estate. Do this by providing the originals to your estate administrator, a second copy to your spouse to keep in a safe deposit box, and a final copy to keep safe for your reference.

Having copies of the lists will help you easily discover what needs to be updated without jumping through hoops.

 

Review and Update Accounts

You need to check into your financial accounts often and keep them updated in a way that suits your situation at the moment.

Even if you update your will to dictate who the beneficiary of an account is, unless they are listed on the account they will not receive precedence. The biggest issues this creates revolve around divorce and remarriages.

If you have plans through your employer you need to contact their customer service team or plan administrator to get an updated list of the beneficiaries for your accounts.

 

Simplify Your Finances

When you are looking through accounts and updating them you should consider consolidating financial assets when capable. You may not need to do this, but anyone who has collected multiple RRSPs or TFSAs from working for different employers is a good candidate.

By consolidating these plans you have better access to the funds, and you can decrease any associated costs. You can access the money when needed with little hassle, and it makes it easier to distribute funds after death.

 

Assign Transfer-on-Death Designations

Any assets that you put into your will are required to go through probate, and the subsequent process racks up fees and takes time.

If you have bank accounts, CD accounts, or individual brokerage accounts you intend to pass on you can set them up with a transfer-on-death (TOD) designation. This keeps the account out of probate and hands it over to your beneficiary with little hassle.

 

Choose an Appropriate Administrator

Your administrator and any other legal authorizations you decide on should not be listed lightly. Anyone in charge of your assets or personal affairs needs to show responsibility and level-headedness.

You also need to predict what state the individual will be in at the time action is required. While your spouse may be the person you are closest to, they are also the ones who will likely be hit hardest by your death.

Choose an administrator that can act within your interests but also your needs without emotions fogging up their judgment.

 

Draft and Notarize a Will (and Other Important Documents)

If you are over the age of 18 then you are old enough to have a will, and you should find a way to draft one as soon as you can.

While this is not an end-all to estate planning, your will provides explanations for how you want to distribute assets after death. This ensures your wishes are honored, and it prevents arguments and other issues between heirs.

Apart from distributing assets to individuals and entities, your will needs to name a guardian for any minors and pets in your care.

Other important documents to create include:

  • Power of Attorney (ideally both medical and financial)
  • Health Care proxy
  • A living will
  • A letter of instruction

You would be surprised what you can draft to direct after-death actions, including planning your funeral and designating how your social media accounts are handled.

These documents can be constructed with the help of an attorney if your assets are complex, but you are also able to use online services to construct estate planning documents.

If you write the will on your own, make sure you sign and date it in front of two witnesses that are not related to you. They should also sign and date the document, and you need to have it notarized.

 

When to Review Documents

It is important to review these documents regularly, at least once in two years, and after major life changes (such as divorce, remarriage, adoptions, or the birth of a child).

You would be surprised how much can change in such a short time, and revisiting your estate plans to update them will help your administrator immensely.

 

Financial Thoughts

Estate planning is not an easy task, and it is not something you should take on alone. Consulting an experienced advisor like Sim Gakhar will help you get everything in line with little hassle. Contact Sim today for help organizing the affairs of your estate.

 

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