The Complete Estate Planning Checklist: Everything You Should Do

When it comes to estate planning, there are certain things you need to do. You can check out our estate planning checklist here.

No one wants to think about their final days on Earth. While it’s a bit morbid, estate planning is an important step in preparing for your future.

An alarming amount of adults don’t currently have an estate plan or will in place. This puts you at risk of losing precious assets and valuables at your time of death.

If you want to guarantee your wishes are carried out and your loved ones receive what’s rightfully theirs, you need an estate planning checklist.

With a little knowledge and forethought, you can easily plan your estate and will now so you can spend more time living life to the fullest.

Keep reading to learn the key components of an estate planning checklist and why you need one.

What Is Estate Planning?

For those unfamiliar with the process, you may be wondering what estate planning is. Similar to a will, an estate plan designates who will receive your assets after your death.

It also names someone in charge of handling all responsibilities related to your passing. This same person may be called upon if at any point prior to death you become incapacitated. 

In short, estate planning guarantees your wishes are carried out after your death. It offers peace of mind for both you and those left behind.

Once you create your estate plan, you can tweak and update it as your financial situation changes. This guide to estate plans details exactly what yours should consist of. 

Make a List of Your Belongings

First thing’s first. You can’t decide who should receive your assets or personal items until you make a detailed list of what you have to give.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t have anything worth creating an estate plan for. Chances are, you have more than you realize.

Take inventory of everything you own worth bequeathing to loved ones. Your list should include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Real estate (including homes and property)
  • Vehicles (cars, boats, or motorcycles)
  • Collectibles (coins, cards, art)
  • Other valuable and personal belongings

You also want to list nontangible assets including life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, checking and savings accounts, and retirement funds.

An appraiser can help estimate the value of the items.

Make Sure Your Family Is Cared For

The entire reason you’re creating an estate planning checklist is to make sure your family is taken care of after your death. But in addition to leaving them monetary items, you also want to ensure they have everything they need on a daily basis.

Consider naming a legal guardian for your children in the event something happens to both you and your spouse. List, in detail, your wishes for how your children are cared for in your absence.

Make sure you have enough life insurance to not only cover funeral expenses but also monthly expenses and future plans like your child’s college fund. 

Designate Directives

Your estate plan will include several legal directives. These documents detail who you choose to handle your affairs and how.

You can name different individuals in each directive or choose one person to handle all of the responsibilities. 

Medical Care Directive

Also known as a health care directive or living will, this document details your wishes for your medical care if you’re unable to make the decision yourself. 

You can also name an individual as your medical power of attorney. This grants them the power to make decisions regarding your medical care if you’re unable to do so.

Power of Attorney

There are two types of power of attorney to consider when estate planning—financial power of attorney and limited power of attorney. 

Your financial power of attorney manages your legal and financial decisions on your behalf.

The limited power of attorney comes into play if you want a second person involved in making decisions for you. This splits the power of attorney so that two parties need to be in agreement before a decision is finalized.


Your estate plan doesn’t have to include a trust but one is helpful in certain situations. A living trust allows you to designate certain portions of your estate while you’re still alive.

If you become incapacitated, these trustees take over. The trustees also inherit any designated assets without question, skipping the probate process.

Check and Double-Check Your Documents 

All too often people write their wills and wait years before ever glancing at them again. This is a dangerous game to play.

Be sure to check and update your will, estate, and other important documents regularly. Check that the right beneficiaries are in place.

Change any beneficiaries from ex-spouses or distant family members to the people you presently want in possession of your belongings after death. 

You also need to check your state’s estate tax laws to help protect your beneficiaries from being charged inheritance tax. 

Consider Hiring an Attorney

The estate planning process can feel overwhelming. If you have a lot of assets or property and a large family to care for, you might benefit from hiring an estate attorney.

While this will cost money, the peace of mind it brings can be well worth it.

An attorney will guarantee you fill out all necessary paperwork and documents correctly. They’ll help you draft a list of your items, create directives, and allocate your funds properly.

Even if your estate is small but you have questions about the planning process, professional guidance can help.

Your Estate Planning Checklist Made Easy

You may not think you need an estate plan or will. Or you may convince yourself that you’re too young to have a will and that it can wait.

The truth is, it’s never too early to put this estate planning checklist into action.

Once you take the necessary steps to create a will and estate plan, the hard work is done! Now, you just need to revisit and update the documents every few years to make sure they still reflect your wishes and current financial situation. 

Hiring an estate attorney can help simplify the process. 

Looking for more advice on earning and saving money? Check our blog regularly to stay up-to-date on all your financial planning needs.

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