Checklist of Estate Planning Items That Deserve Your Attention

The following aspects of estate planning are ones that many people don’t think of. Here’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself as you go about your estate planning.

  • What items are of sentimental value to me and my loved ones that I would like them to have to remind them of a particular memory?

This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s one that you need to ask to make sure that you aren’t overlooking something. Remember, estate planning is about protecting hearts. It’s possible that there are items of sentimental value to others that you might not find particularly meaningful. For example, what about that pair of cubic zirconia studs that you always wear? They might not carry much monetary value, but the people in your life may find them precious just because they remind them of you.

  • What is the legacy or feeling that I want to convey by gifting my assets to my loved one? How does that differ from one loved one to the next?

Here’s where you have to be super thoughtful. Your legacy may differ in meaning from one person to the next. What is the memory that you want each person to have of you? It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to feelings.

  • Are these items more or less of equal value (in economic terms) so that one family member won’t feel they were slighted in comparison to what another family member has received?

Here’s where the economics can come into play. Gifting is about the thought and the emotion, but think about the monetary value of the gifts you are giving to people on “equal ground” so to speak (example: if you have three children each child would theoretically be considered on the same level as opposed to a niece or nephew).  If there is more than a hundred dollars of difference in the economic value of your bequest, you may be inadvertently giving off the wrong message.

  • What are the instructions for care of these assets that my loved ones should know about so that he or she can ensure they will properly maintain it over time (e.g. real estate)?

People make this mistake all the time: they gift valuable assets that aren’t that easy to maintain, and then neglect to include instructions about how to do so. This leaves the recipient in the dark and may cause the gift to deteriorate over time.

How do you polish the silver teacup set? Where’s the outline for how to take care of the summer home in New Hampshire? Remember only you know the details; don’t keep them a secret!

  • Are there items that it would be better to sell to increase the cash value of my estate rather than pass on as assets? Would my beneficiaries appreciate the cash value more than the item itself in this case?

Here’s a reality check; some people aren’t into having “things.” Think of someone in your life who would rather be gobbled by ducks than have to go through all the tasks required by owning a home, for example. If there are people like this in your life, giving them a physical asset to take care of may not be such a blessing. You may want to have the conversation with the beneficiary before you take to eBay, though!

 

  • Is there anyone that I am leaving out?

Think hard about this one. You may have a long list of beneficiaries but who is the one person who may feel like they should have been on the list? Maybe it’s someone that you owe a favor to and it just slipped your mind. Who is that person? Take a minute a think about it.

Questions about how to plan your estate? Feel free to reach out to me at pcoppola@acornep.com.