20th Oct 2020

The State of Your Estate: What Needs to Be Included in Your Estate Planning Design

With the amount of effort that goes into estate planning there can sometimes be small things that get passed over. Be sure to hit all the items your list!

Staying organized during your estate planning process is critical—for you and your loved ones. When you have an organized plan, you can be sure that you've included everything you need to care for your estate after you're gone effectively.

Excellent organization also helps your loved ones or executor honor your final wishes. When you leave behind a clear plan with easy-to-find documents, the personal representative for your estate can effectively execute your will, distribute your assets, and make sure your beneficiaries receive everything outlined in your final documents.

What critical documents should you include in your estate planning? Stay organized to make sure you hit all of the items on your list!

Your Will

Have a clearly documented will is one of the most important pieces of an effective estate plan. When creating the file or checklist that contains everything in your plan, make sure you include a legally-binding copy of your will.

To be thorough, it's a good idea to make a file that includes:

  • A copy of your current will
  • If applicable, copies of any prior versions of your will
  • The name of your attorney or the online service that helped you create your will

If there is any cause for a beneficiary to contest the latest version of your will, the executor can refer to previous versions and work with a lawyer to help settle confusion or claims.

Your Life Insurance Policies

Filing your life insurance policies with your estate planning documents makes it easy for loved ones to activate your policy when it's time. In many cases, the payout from your life insurance policy helps cover burial and funeral home expenses. These funds can also help pay off remaining debts.

Be sure your will or final instructions make it clear how to distribute the remaining funds from your life insurance policy. If your heirs should receive a portion of your life insurance payout, make a note of those details in your will.

Your Funeral Arrangements

Did you pre-plan your funeral? It's a common practice that can help your loved ones carry out your final wishes and ease the burden of planning your funeral while they grieve your loss.

If you purchased a burial plot, pre-paid for services, and have preferences for your service, make a list of these details to file with your estate planning documents:

  • Name, location, and contact information for the cemetery
  • Invoice for the burial plot and any pre-paid services
  • Names of preferred pallbearers
  • Preferences for your memorial service

Thinking ahead to your funeral can seem like a morbid task, but it can be a relief (and honor) for your loved ones to carry out your wishes with a memorial service and burial plan that you chose.

Your Financials

A significant part of your estate plan involves the disbursement of your assets and retirement income. You've planned for your future, and you want to make sure your loved ones receive your remaining assets according to your plan.

Your estate planning checklist should include information about:

  • Your bank accounts
  • Retirement or pension accounts
  • Money market, bank, or mutual fund accounts
  • Stocks, bonds, or investment properties
  • Credit card accounts
  • Loans
  • Trusts
  • Valuables located in a safety deposit box or other secure locations

It can be challenging to think of everything involved with your financials when creating this part of your checklist. However, compiling detailed information will help your estate executor finalize your estate more efficiently. This information can also help your executor navigate your estate through the probate process.

Your Advance Directive

A thorough estate plan involves more than your final wishes after death. Your plan should also include an advance directive or living will if you are unable to make final decisions on your own due to health or other issues.

Having an advance directive helps your loved ones honor your wishes through legal, written instructions regarding medical decisions about your health. This document also assigns a power of attorney to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself.

An advance directive takes the guesswork out of your long-term care and allows loved ones to make informed decisions regarding your health and estate.

Your Beneficiaries

Whether you choose to disburse your assets to heirs, organizations, or a combination of people and places, make sure you include a list of beneficiaries with your estate plan.

We've already mentioned heirs and disbursements because it's critical to clarify where you want your assets to go after your death. Having a clear list and instructions eliminates confusion and conflict as your executor works with your estate attorney to honor your final wishes.

Your beneficiary list should include:

  • Names and contact information for every beneficiary
  • Details about how to distribute your assets or insurance payouts to your beneficiaries
  • Notes about specific exclusions from your will and assets, if applicable

If you choose to exclude a loved one from your beneficiary list, make sure that information is clear to your estate executor. In the event of an unhappy loved one, your executor and estate planning lawyer will uphold the final wishes outlined in your will and list of beneficiaries.

Your Miscellaneous Paperwork

It's helpful for your checklist to include other miscellaneous paperwork to help your executor locate essential documents. This list can consist of:

  • Car titles
  • Property deeds,
  • Your marriage license
  • Birth certificates
  • Divorce paperwork
  • Passports

While these documents might not be essential to finalizing your estate, you don't want any of these documents to fall into the wrong hands after your death. Your estate executor can keep them safe until they are no longer needed.

Stay Organized When Estate Planning

Staying organized while estate planning leaves your loved ones with a better way to honor your final wishes. can help you find the tools you need to set your mind at ease about your estate after your death. When working through your estate plan, contact us for effective solutions to organize and file your final documents.