Taking the time to create an estate plan is important for anybody, no matter what their age. Many people overlook estate planning or simply don’t make time for it. The truth is that creating an estate plan can benefit your loved ones and save them added stress in the unfortunate event of your death. If you’ve decided to take this necessary step in planning your affairs, get started with the help of our estate planning checklist. 

What Do I Need For Estate Planning?

To get started with estate planning, you need to have certain things in order to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Estate planning is a way to make difficult decisions about who will get which assets after your death and legally document your wishes. In order to do this, you need to know what assets you possess and whom you want the intended assets to transfer to. 

What Assets Do I Possess? 

When estate planning, you need to account for everything you possess. This can add up to a whole lot in a short amount of time; more than you initially thought you’d be able to account for. The best way to begin estate planning with a lawyer is to identify all of these assets.

One of the most common assets people have is real estate and property. This can be land or a home or any other type of property. If you own multiple properties, start by listing out each property and its value. You will decide who will receive the assets after listing everything out. 

While you may not have any real estate to account for, you most likely will have a vehicle of some sort and in some cases, multiple vehicles. These can range from various cars, motorcycles and even boats which are considered vehicles. Make note of all vehicles and their respective values.

A couple creates an estate plan based on the estate planning checklist their attorney gave them

There are also personal effects and keepsakes. These can include valuables such as jewelry, art, or antiques. Any collectible books or memorabilia also fall into this category. This can be the most time-consuming section when making a list, as most people acquire quite a bit of personal possessions over a lifetime, and it takes time to list them out and assign them a value.

Assets can also include financial assets – things such as life insurance policies and stocks or mutual funds. Retirement plans, tenants in common or other shares of business or property, and checking and savings accounts should also be listed as assets in your possession. 

After you’ve accounted for all possessions, you can begin to decide who will receive which assets. 

If You Have Children…

One of the most important parts of this estate planning checklist is making sure your family and children are taken care of. If you have children, you need to make some hard decisions and may need to discuss these with your spouse so that you both come to an agreement. You will need to consider a potential guardian for your children in the unfortunate case of yours and your spouse’s death. If you share custody, it is still important to name a guardian just in case. And you should have a backup guardian as well. You want to make sure that your children are taken care of no matter what, and to do that, you have to cover your bases.

In naming a guardian, you should include how you expect your children to be raised. What ways would you raise your children if you were able to be alive throughout their entire childhood? Guardians may not know how you expect your child to be raised and may have different parenting ideas. Laying these out in your estate plan can help ensure your children are raised in the way you see fit, even after your passing.

You should also go over your life insurance policies and make sure your family is taken care of in that regard. 

Making Your Wishes Clear

There are many other things to consider when creating an estate plan. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you to understand which legal directives need your attention and can help you in designating how circumstances will be handled and by whom. These directives can be in regards to medical decisions, power of attorney, or if setting up a will or trust is in your best interest.

Let an experienced attorney guide you through the estate planning checklist. Mark Schottler, a Chicagoland attorney, offers free 30 minute consultations. Find out how he can help you here. 

Mark Schottler is a Chicagoland attorney with over 20 years of experience working both in probate and estate planning law and in real estate law. He puts his extensive knowledge on these subjects into easily consumable articles that will help and advise the public. Mark Schottler has a passion for probate and uses this to create relevant articles that are informative and entertaining. *While these posts may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.