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An estate planning checklist helps to organize the process

A California resident may have many different considerations when making up an estate planning checklist. One purpose of the list is to go over it with one's estate planning attorney in making up an initial estate plan. The estate plan is intended to take care of decisions to be made if one becomes incapacitated and unable to act and in the case of death.

Interestingly, over 60 percent of Americans don't even have a will let alone a full estate plan. It seems that facing one's mortality and being practical enough to plan for the best interest of one's family is not a primary motivator. Witness the one most famous recent personality to die without a will, the entertainer Prince. The ramifications on his family members and his business empire from the lack of planning are still reverberating in the courtrooms of his home state.

Making a checklist includes making copies of all important documents reflecting all assets and financial affairs. This helps to have an effective first meeting with the estate planning attorney. Once the attorney learns of the client's needs and wishes, the law firm can perform the detail work in getting estate planning instruments ready for signature. The list should include all assets, real and personal.

This includes all accounts, with account numbers, balances, and other details. Important debts such as mortgages must also be listed. Retirement accounts, IRAs, life insurance policies, and investment accounts should be itemized. Preferences for who will act as one's health care proxy and as the agent in a power of attorney are necessary. For the will, the person to act as executor must be identified along with any testamentary trustees. 

In California and nationwide, the trend is to also provide the attorney with information on all digital accounts, including one's wishes for treatment of each account during disability and after death. Some controversy has arisen over who has the power over these accounts after death. The best way to assure that one's wishes are satisfied is to go over all preferences with the estate planning attorney.

Source:, "Estate Planning Checklist: Easy Stress-Free Steps For Getting Organized", Michele Chandler, March 30, 2018

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