“Managing Your Estate” Checklist

“Managing Your Estate” Checklist

Anyone that has helped in the estate resolution process for a loved one knows it can be either an enormous pain or relatively painless (excluding the loss of your loved one, of course).  The level of difficulty is almost certainly determined by the planning or lack thereof done by the deceased.

There are actions that every person nearing retirement needs to consider when it comes to effective estate management.  This checklist is designed to be an overview and is by no means exhaustive.  Do your research and/or reach out to a qualified estate planning attorney for the fine tuning.  On to the checklist.

  • Find at least one or two people that you trust implicitly.  For some people, this is easier said than done, but every action below is more or less dependent on having someone that will ensure your wishes are carried out.
  • Draft an initial letter of instruction.  This is a letter that can be provided to those trustworthy people upon your passing.  In this letter, you will indicate:
    • Where you keep important documents such as your will, life insurance policies, statement of net worth.
    • Location of safe deposit box, keys, and contents.
    • An inventory of household goods.  This is particularly important for items of significant monetary or sentimental value.
    • People that should be contacted when you pass.  You may include the name and contact information of your executor, accountant, attorney, financial advisor, and any friends that you want to be sure are notified.
  • Keep your will current.  If you’ve had any significant life changes since your last will was written, it should probably be updated.  Life changes could include moving, divorce, marriage, sale or purchase of various properties, the death of anyone included in your will, the birth of anyone that should be included, and so on.
  • If you have a trust of any kind, make sure that everything has been properly transferred into the trust.  Assets that are not titled properly will likely go through the probate process, which would defeat the purpose of the trust entirely.
  • Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date on all life insurance policies and investment accounts.  If you are intending to “stretch your IRAs” to future generations, you want to make sure your beneficiaries are named specifically rather than a trust or passing through your estate.  There are quite a bit of possible law changes floating around right now on the stretch IRA topic, but for now, it’s allowed.  Take advantage while it’s there.
    • If you plan to leave assets to charity, you may consider leaving Traditional IRA dollars to the charities, and Roth IRA assets and non-IRA assets to family/friends.  This can make the giving of your dollars more tax efficient.  There are a lot of ins and outs of this process, so working with an experienced professional is critical.
  • If it’s unlikely that you’ll end up spending the assets that you’ve accumulated, consider taking advantage of annual gifting strategies to those you love or charities.  You may find you enjoy the actual giving during your life rather than waiting.
  • Prepare for incapacity.  This is never a fun thought, but can be critical to how you wish to be cared for should it occur.  You’ll likely want some/all of the following documents prepared and properly executed:
    • Durable Power of Attorney – this document will allow someone you trust to make ongoing financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable.
    • Health Care Proxy – this document will allow you to designate another person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you’re unable.
    • Living Will – if you’d like a little more control than a health care proxy, you can set up a living will.  This document allows you to specify the medical treatment you wish to receive and under what circumstances the treatment should or should not be administered if you’re unable to make those decisions.
    • Long Term Care Policy – this is an agreement with an insurance company that can help to offset expenses associated with needing everyday living care if you are unable to care for yourself.  This type of policy can help to preserve your estate to pass along to your loved ones.

You’ll want to make sure that someone knows where your “incapacity documents” are while you’re alive since they’ll only be applicable during that time.  So, while those documents are necessary for an effective estate plan, they’re unique in that they become irrelevant once you would pass.

You may consider placing your incapacity documents and your letter of instruction in the same location.  One idea would be to place your letter of instruction in a special sealed envelope.  This way, this way it will be easy to find when it is needed, but you can still maintain your desired privacy.

The goal of this process is to make sure that your wishes are followed and to make estate dissolution as simple as possible for our loved one.  Hope this helps!



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