This is a quick list of steps you should take to prepare for meeting with an estate planning attorney or beginning work on your estate planning documents:
1. Make a list of your property and other assets, including real property, personal property, financial accounts, business interests, etc. Create an inventory sheet listing the type of asset, a brief description, and where the asset is located, such as the physical location or name of the financial institution. See our free estate property form for an example.
2. Make a list of any debts, liabilities or other obligations that would have to be paid out of your estate, including loans, mortgages, claims, etc. See creditor claims.
3. Make a list of any individuals you want to protect with your estate plan, such as your spouse, domestic partner, child or parent, as well as any pets or animals.
4. Make a list of any charitable organizations you would like to benefit with funds or property from your estate. See legacy planning.
5. Decide whom you want to help you carry out your estate plan, such as by serving as executor of your will or successor trustee of your living trust, or serving as a guardian for your children or caretaker for your pet. See guardianship.
6. Collect any important files, records, account statements, life insurance policies, existing estate planning documents, and other documents you want to keep accessible while preparing your estate plan.
7. Make a list of any advisors or other professionals you want to rely on in preparing your estate plan, such as a CPA or accountant, financial advisor or financial planner, and attorney.
8. If applicable, sit down with your spouse or partner and discuss any issues or concerns he or she has regarding your estate plan, including how family expenses or financial support will be handled after one of you dies. See spouses and partners.
9. Make a list of any questions and concerns you have about preparing your estate plan, as well as any issues you want addressed in your estate planning documents.
10. Decide if you want to make a self-proving will. For information on this type of will, go to
To find free estate planning forms, browse our home page and check out other sections of Pennyborn.com.
Living Trust Checklist
If you are planning to make a living trust or have an existing living trust you need to revise, use our Living Trust Checklist to ensure you complete the necessary steps to make your trust valid and enforceable. Also, check out our free Living Trust Guide.
Estate Planning Checklist for Single Parents
If you are a single parent, you probably do not have a lot of time to devote to estate planning. However, you understand there are certain things you must do to protect your children. For a checklist of the most essential estate planning steps for single parents with minor children, see Estate Planning for Single Parents.
Estate Planning Steps for People with Pets
If you have pets or other animals, the estate plan you make, or fail to make, could have a huge impact on whether they survive if you become disabled or die. Your animals are totally dependent on you for their survival. What will happen to them if you suffer a tragedy or they outlive you? To learn the steps you can take as a responsible pet owner, see our free Estate Planning Guide for Pet Owners.
Organize Your Estate Planning Documents
Whether you are just starting to make an estate plan or are in the final stages of completing it, it is important to compile all your estate planning documents and related items in an organized manner. Whatever reasons motivated you to make an estate plan, putting your documents together in an organized way is an essential part of ensuring your last wishes will be honored. An easy way to do this is with a
Last Wishes Planner.
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