Getting Started with Estate Planning

Estate Planning Checklist

Information and Documents Needed

To plan an estate the most important item needed is information. Following is a checklist of the information generally needed when getting started with estate planning:

  • Current and fairly detailed financial statement listing major assets and liabilities.
  • Deeds, sales contracts, leases, and other relevant documents for all real estate owned or being acquired.
  • Titles to all registered vehicles and other licensed equipment, such as trailers.
  • All promissory notes — even from family members.
  • Anticipated gifts or inheritances of a sizable nature.
  • All life insurance policies and annuity policies on family members, including any group insurance policies. Beneficiary designations are extremely important and definitely needed.
  • All documents for all retirement plans covering the client, including employer-provided plans, self-employed (HR-10, Keogh) plans, individual retirement accounts (I.R.A.). Beneficiary designations and settlement options are extremely critical and definitely needed.
  • All business agreements, including stock purchase or redemption agreements.
  • Pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements.
  • Current Wills, trust agreements, and general and medical powers of attorney.
  • Most recently filed federal income tax return
  • Any filed gift tax returns
  • Contact information for personal advisors including attorneys, bankers, insurance agents, accountants, stock brokers, and physicians.
  • Contact information for children or other intended beneficiaries.

All other documents and information the client believes should be reviewed or will be helpful in establishing the value and extent of the client’s estate and the types of assets comprising the client’s estate.

Because everyone has different circumstances not all of the above items listed will be applicable to their particular situation. The checklist is merely a guideline to be followed in preparing for an initial estate planning appointment.