Five Steps to Estate Plan Organization


Estate planning is a process that evolves with life. As people and things flow through life, so must the estate plan. The lazy days of summer are a good time for maintenance. Here are 5 estate planning tips that you can use as a guide to organizing and maintaining your estate.

It is important to note these tips are not a substitute for meeting with an attorney to look at issues specific to you, such as blended family, special needs, estate tax, asset protection, and more. Perkins Thompson has the experience and tools necessary to assist with your estate plan. Reach out to a member of our Trusts & Estates practice group and we’ll be happy to help.

  1. Identify your assets and liabilities. Create a spreadsheet listing everything you own in terms of accounts, real estate, vehicles, life insurance, etc. If you keep this electronically, do not put full account numbers or other details in the event your computer security is compromised.
  1. Identify ownership. On the spreadsheet, identify who owns the asset. Use names and do not make assumptions, e.g., look at the deed and confirm the names. You will also look at how the asset is owned, i.e., joint owner, tenant in common, individual.
  1. Identify beneficiary or transfer-on-death instructions. Just because you want an asset to go to your kids, wanting does not make it so. Physically obtain the paperwork confirming who your beneficiaries are on accounts such as retirement and investment funds, bank accounts, life insurance, etc. This is where you catch mistakes such as removing parents who have died or ex-spouses.
  1. Identify the value. On the spreadsheet, write down the approximate value of everything.
  1. Confirm that you have a financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and a will or a will substitute (typically a trust). This final item should require an attorney. Proper planning will save frustration and money when the time comes. If you have your documents, contact your attorney every 18-24 months simply for a review to see if there is anything to update on your part or the attorney’s part.