How To Tailor An Estate Planning Checklist To Your Needs

Posted on: 1 February 2021

Before you sit down for a session with an estate planning lawyer, it's a good idea to go over a checklist of the things you'll need. While this isn't going to perfectly streamline the process, it will save you some time.

Tailoring the checklist to your circumstances can make it more efficient and effective, too. Take a look at how you can create a checklist for your particular estate planning needs.

Account for All of Your Assets and Liabilities

It's a good idea to take the measure of your estate at least every couple of years. This process will also give you a sense of what sort of estate issues you're dealing with. For example, someone who mostly has their money tied up in checking, savings, and brokerage accounts may largely need to sign administrative paperwork to make the account payable upon death. Conversely, someone who owns a lot of real properties may want to set up a trust to ease the transfer process.

Similarly, you'll have to account for your liabilities. This includes outstanding debts and taxes. Make sure all of your creditors are known and talk with an estate planning attorney about how to fund the process of closing these liabilities out. Remember, creditors have legal standing to force probate proceedings if obligations are not satisfied.

Itemize everything. Even if you don't think it will be subject to estate proceedings, an estate lawyer can double-check whether that will be the case.

Tracking Down Beneficiaries

Naming a person as a beneficiary is one thing, but are you sure the estate's executor will be able to track them down when necessary? It's a good idea to reach out to all beneficiaries at least once a year to get contact information for them. Likewise, ask for contact information for at least two people who will know their whereabouts if they move, travel, or have business.


It's a good idea to outline your goals before making a tailored checklist for your estate plans. This will help your estate planning lawyer to recommend specific solutions. If you want to provide money for a charity, for example, they can help you look at whether to name an existing endowment as a beneficiary or to establish a trust. Likewise, they can help you think about how to maximize tax benefits for both you and the beneficiaries.

You should also think about the proportionality of your estate. Bear in mind that some assets might rise in value and offset the proportions of who gets what. Annually return to an estate planning attorney to make corrections.