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Estate Planning Checklist: Things to Consider Before You Start

McCarter | East PLLC July 2, 2024

Senior couples preparing estate plan with the help of attorneyAlmost everyone knows that they need to create an estate plan, but many procrastinate on getting one set up. The reason? Well, obviously, no one likes to think about their own mortality. And for many, estate planning seems too complicated to get started right away.  

At McCarter | East PLLC, we focus on providing trusted legal guidance to those who are thinking of creating an estate plan. Whether you know nothing about estate planning or already have an idea about what you want your plan to accomplish, we can help. Our estate planning attorneys in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, provide tailored direction that is right for our clients and their specific circumstances.  

Your Checklist for Creating an Estate Plan

Setting up an estate plan involves many moving parts and thorough analysis. From defining your goals at the early stages of the process to drafting estate planning documents, there are many things to consider. The checklist below briefly outlines some of the things you should take into consideration before you start working on your plan:  

  • Determine what you want to achieve with the plan. What do you want your estate plan to do for you and your family? Whether it's ensuring your loved ones are taken care of, safeguarding your legacy, minimizing taxes, or making sure your business continues after your passing, having clear goals will guide your decisions throughout the process. 

  • Create an inventory of your assets. Create a detailed list of all your assets. This includes real estate properties, bank accounts, investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds), retirement accounts (401(k), IRA), personal belongings (jewelry, art, vehicles), and life insurance policies, among others. With this list, you will be able to determine which estate planning tools to utilize to protect each item.  

  • List your debts. Document all your liabilities, such as mortgages, credit card debts, personal loans, and any other outstanding debts. This step ensures that you make the appropriate arrangements for all your debts so that your loved ones are not caught off guard by unexpected obligations after you leave this world.  

  • Consider who you want your beneficiaries to be. Decide who will inherit your assets. This could include family members, friends, charities, or other institutions. For many, this may be some of the most difficult and emotionally taxing steps of estate planning.  

  • Consider who you want to manage your estate after your death. Selecting someone to manage your estate after your death – known as the personal representative or executor – is crucial. This person will be responsible for paying any debts and taxes, distributing your assets according to your wishes, and handling any legal matters related to your estate after you pass away.  

  • Consider who you want to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. Determine who will make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This could be the same person as your executor or someone else you trust. The document you need to give someone a written authorization to handle your financial and legal affairs is known as the “power of attorney.”  

  • Consider who you want to make health care decisions on your behalf. Choose someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so in the future. This should be someone who understands your values and wishes regarding medical treatment. You can also create an advance directive to outline your treatment preferences in end-of-life situations.  

  • Consider provisions for minors, pets, and family members with special needs. If appropriate, consider any provisions for children or grandchildren who are minors, pets who may need care after your death, and family members with special needs who require ongoing support (this can be part of your special needs planning).  

  • Consider funeral/burial preferences. While this may not be the most exciting thing to think about, take your time to consider your preferences for funeral and burial arrangements. Documenting these can help your loved ones make difficult decisions during an emotionally charged time.  

  • Consider business succession planning. If you own a business, consider how you want it to continue after your death. This might involve naming a successor, creating a buy-sell agreement, and establishing a trust to manage the business, among other things.  

If you are thinking about setting up an estate plan, you might want to seek the guidance of an attorney. With legal counsel, you will be able to make intelligent decisions to establish a well-structured plan designed to accomplish your goals.  

Get Help With Your Estate Plan Today

Creating an estate plan may seem too complicated and intensive, which is why it’s easy to put it off for another day. You may come up with a myriad of reasons why now is not the right time to get started on your plan. But if not now, then when? With our attorneys on your side, setting up an estate plan won’t feel nearly as intimidating and difficult as it might seem. With over 40 years of combined experience, we – here at McCarter | East PLLC – are passionate about helping our clients create customized estate plans that address all important matters. Get started on your plan today by scheduling a free consultation with our attorneys.