An Estate Planning Review Checklist

In Estate Planning, General Financial Planning, Personal Financial Planning by Chip Hymiller

When it comes to financial planning, one of the easiest and most important things to accomplish is an overall review of your estate plan.  We suggest that you review your estate plan every couple of years, or when there are changes in your family that may impact your estate planning.

It seems that estate planning is always last on a person’s financial planning “To-Do” list.  In fact, let’s be honest, thinking about your ultimate demise is not the most entertaining way to spend your free time!  Here is a checklist of estate planning items to review that may be helpful:

Review your Will and answer the following questions:

1. How does the will distribute your assets?  Is this distribution strategy still appropriate?

2. Who is the Executor or Successor Executor of your will?  Who is the Trustee or Successor Trustee of any trusts that are created in your will (i.e. a trust for your minor children)?  Are these individuals still the best choice?

3. If a trust is included in your will, do you understand the terms?  How much flexibility does the trustee have over the trust and are you satisfied with this flexibility?

4. Does your will assign a guardian for your young children?  If so, is this person capable of handling the responsibility?

5. For those with estates in excess of $5 million—have you considered estate tax minimization or other advanced estate planning techniques?  If so, are they still appropriate?

6. Has your will been signed and notarized?

Review Beneficiary Designations

1. Confirm (in writing) both your primary and contingent beneficiaries of the following:

    • Retirement Plans:  401(k) Plans, 403(b) Plans, IRAs, Roth IRAs
    • Life Insurance Policies

2. If a trust is named as a beneficiary or contingent beneficiary, make sure you agree with the terms of the trust.  Also, if a trust is the beneficiary of a qualified plan (IRA, 401k, etc.), then confirm (with an attorney) the trust will allow for “see-through” provisions.

Review Other Important Estate Planning Documents

1. Have you executed General Durable Powers of Attorney?  This important document grants a person the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.

2. Have you executed Healthcare Powers of Attorney?  This document provides guidance and grants someone the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable.

3. Do you have a Living Will (or Advance Directives)?  This document provides your opinion involving important end of life decisions.

Review the Titling of your Assets

Have you titled your assets appropriately?  Investment accounts, bank accounts and other forms of real property can be titled in various ways.  Joint tenancy, tenants in common, and individual registrations, are common forms of titling.  Are these most appropriate for you, or should you be utilizing trusts or corporations (LLCs) to own your property?

While these are all very important items to occasionally scrutinize, it is also important that you keep your family informed.  We would suggest you make the important individuals (Executor, Guardian, Trustee, etc.) aware of the roles you have assigned to them.  You should also prepare a list of any professional advisors, accountants or attorneys that are aware of your situation and can help answer any questions that may arise upon your death or incapacity.  If you have any questions, or need an attorney to either review your existing documents or help you draft new ones, please give us a call.