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Easy Estate Planning Checklist

Take these 6 important steps to prepare your estate plan to protect your assets and loved ones in the future.

Many people have the assumption that an estate plan is associated with wealth. Don’t let the word “estate” fool you into thinking estate planning is only for the ultra-wealthy—an estate plan is for everyone. Your estate includes everything from property assets to your dropbox full of photos of your kids. The planning portion of an estate plan is created to cover all of your bases—from death to a disability, or even becoming incapacitated.

While these scenarios aren’t enjoyable things to think about, planning for them is one of the most selfless things you can do. Putting in this work proactively will protect you, your assets, and your loved ones. Use this estate planning checklist to make sure you have all your ducks in a row and can rest assured that your assets—and loved ones—are protected.

Estate Planner in Richmond VA Servicing A Client in Home
Estate Planner in Richmond VA Servicing A Client in Home

What is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan is a collection of documents and instructions regarding all of the details pertaining to the who, when, and how of your assets. This includes your last will and testament, power of attorney, and your plans for caring for dependents— making it easy for your loved ones to know how to handle your affairs when you no longer can. 

Planning for your estate can feel like a daunting task and it will take some careful consideration but the best way to tackle it is to jump right in and start somewhere. This is not an exhaustive list, and it is always recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your estate plan is ironclad, but it will help get you started with a solid foundation.

6-Step Estate Planning Checklist

  1. Take Inventory of Your Assets: Grab your laptop and start making a list of your assets. There are many categories of assets so take time in each category and write down everything you can think of, even if it doesn’t seem like it has much value. Don’t forget to consider the following:
  • Physical assets can include homes, property, cars, boats, recreational vehicles, family heirlooms, collections, and belongings.
  • Monetary assets can include checking and savings accounts, health savings accounts, retirement accounts, mutual funds, and life insurance policies.
  • Digital assets can include digital investments, crypto wallets, digital files, photo galleries, and videos.
  1. Create a Will: If you completed step one, congratulations! You will list those assets in your will and name the beneficiaries who will inherit those assets. You will also name an executor to carry out your will. This is where you will spell out your last will and testament—your final wishes. In most cases, your will needs to be signed by you, and two witnesses and must be notarized. Otherwise, the state might have other benchmarks that need to be met before the will is considered valid. 
  1. Gather Your Documents: If the thought of gathering and filing a bunch of paperwork feels stressful, start with this task:every time you access an account write down your username, password, and your security questions and answers down on a piece of paper. One thing people don’t consider is that if they die it will be very difficult for their executor, beneficiaries, or loved ones to access places where they might be storing important documents—like email, cloud files, or dropbox. 

When you finish that task, move on to something a little more challenging like gathering documents that already exist. This can include your recent tax returns, investment statements, healthcare power of attorney, durable financial power of attorney, insurance policies, and your last will and testament naming your beneficiaries and executor.

  1. Set up Guardianship for Dependants: If you have children or pets you will need to decide who will have legal guardianship over them and who will manage their inheritance and assets until they become old enough to take it over. If you do not name someone capable of these tasks, the court may decide for you. 
  1. Power of Attorney: There are many reasons you might need a power of attorney (POA) and each reason functions with its purpose. You will likely need multiple power of attorney documents to cover all of the possibilities. A POA gives a trusted person who you select the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you can not. A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare will allow your agent, the person you select, to step in when major medical decisions need to be made and you may not be able to make them. Without a power of attorney, you risk probate court assigning a conservator on your behalf. A Financial Power of Attorney allows your agent to pay bills, make bank deposits, or collect insurance benefits.
  1. Update Your Estate Plan Regularly: It is wise to update your estate plan any time you have a major life event like a job change, major move, marriage/divorce, or the birth of a child. If you have gone longer than 12 months without considering your estate plan it might be a good idea to give it a once-over and update things like user names and passwords, new assets, or any changes regarding your last will and testament. 

Mobile Estate Planning Made Easy

The process of getting a legitimate will in place for you and your family can be overwhelming, confusing, and costly, but it doesn’t have to be! At Asurest, we offer simple, affordable solutions for your legal needs and make the process easy by coming to you for the conversation—meeting you in your home or, if you prefer, over Zoom or telephone.

Serving the Greater Richmond area and beyond, our experienced and trustworthy professionals simplify the process using clear, understandable language free of legal jargon and provide flat-rate packages, so you’re never surprised by the bill. Contact us today and rest assured that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are protected.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Written By
Matthew Reinaker
January 23, 2023
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