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Estate Planning Checklist

September 09, 2022

Estate Planning Checklist

An estate plan is the most effective way to protect your wealth and pass it on to your loved ones or to others after you are gone. After you have completed your initial estate plan, it is advised that you review your estate planning documents at least every five years and after any significant personal or financial change, such as marriage or divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, the purchase and sale of significant assets, or coming into a substantial sum of money. Below are checklist items to keep in mind as you complete your initial or review estate planning.

What Items Should You Include on Your Estate Planning Checklist?

Points to include on a thorough estate planning checklist include:

  • Making sure you have completed all estate planning documents relevant to your goals. This will usually include a last will and testament, as well as potentially trust documents, durable power of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney/living will.
  • Designating who will receive specific items of personal property that may have substantial financial or sentimental value, such as family photos, artwork, jewelry, or antiques. To avoid having your family members fight over who gets these items, it can be helpful to include a schedule in your will that designates who will receive what items.
  • Setting up bequests to heirs under the age of 18 to be held by the minor’s parent, guardian, or a trustee until they reach adulthood.
  • Determining whether you want to make specific gifts of cash or other assets, such as real estate, to particular individuals. You should also include provisions in your estate plan to deal with a situation if those assets are gone or sold by the time of your death.
  • Assessing the value of your estate to determine if state or federal estate taxes might be imposed, so that you can undertake estate planning aimed at reducing the value of your estate upon death.

Choosing a Personal Representative

One of the most important checklist items in estate planning is choosing who will serve as the personal representative, also called an executor or administrator, of your estate, or as the trustee of any trusts you establish. Many people choose to name family members as personal representatives or trustees, since they are less likely to charge professional fees for estate or trust administration and will likely have a better understanding of your estate planning wishes. However, naming a family member can also have drawbacks, including burdening them with estate administration at a time when they are grieving your loss, putting them in the middle of family conflicts over the distribution of your estate, and picking someone who may lack the financial and legal knowledge necessary to adequately discharge their duties. Depending on the potential for family conflict and the sophistication of your assets, you may be better served naming an attorney, accountant, bank, or trust company to serve as the personal representative of your estate or trustee of your trust. Of course, hiring a professional means paying their fees.  If you do decide to select a family member, you should pick someone that you would completely trust to run your business or financial affairs while you are still alive.

Contact a Fort Lee Estate Planning Attorney for a Consultation in New Jersey

You deserve to have peace of mind about whether your loved ones will be taken care of after you are gone. The best way to plan for your future, and the future of your close family members or other loved ones is to speak with an estate planning lawyer about your specific circumstances and financial situation. The experienced New Jersey estate planning attorneys at the Choi Law Firm assist clients with wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. We represent clients across North Jersey, including Bergen County, Passaic County, and Essex County, and throughout New York, including Queens County, Nassau County, and NYC. Call us anytime at 201-613-5557 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. Our main office is located at 1372 Palisade Avenue, 2nd Floor, Fort Lee, NJ 07024, and we also have an office located in Flushing, NY at 164-01 Northern Boulevard.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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