Why You Need an Estate Plan and How to Create One in 3 Easy Steps with a Free Downloadable Checklist

Jason Reed | March 28, 2022

Why You Need an Estate Plan and How to Create One in 3 Easy Steps with a Free Downloadable Checklist

Why should you start planning your estate? And who even has time to do that? Where would you start? I will answer all of these questions below and break down your estate planning into three easy steps, plus include an estate planning checklist pdf to get started.

Before I explain how to start your estate planning, you need to know why these plans are so important. First off, you are never too young to start! If you have a checking account, retirement plan, or own property, you should create an estate plan. Why? Because it protects your family and beneficiaries. You have to create a plan because your estate does not automatically go to your spouse or family, you must assign beneficiaries. If you want to learn more about why you should have an estate plan and the benefits, I go into more detail in the video below.  



Step 1: Inventory


This step is simply about making a list of what you own and approximate values, including obvious assets such as your home, cars, savings, and retirement accounts. The less obvious items on your list could be jewelry, artwork, furniture, and locations of safes/safety deposit boxes. While most of your inventory will be about physical assets, it is just as important to list your account login information for your retirement, bank, insurance, bills, credit card company, and any other relevant information. 


Free Estate Planning Checklist


Step 2: Draft a Plan


This step is about creating a simple rough draft before meeting with an estate planning attorney. The main parts of this step include naming beneficiaries, executor, power of attorney, and your children's guardians, if applicable. 

  • What is a beneficiary? A person who inherits your assets, the items you took inventory of in step one.

  • What is a contingent beneficiary? A backup beneficiary if your primary passes before you do. 

  • What is a power of attorney? A document appointing the person who will act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.

  • What is an executor? A person or company you designate to oversee the administration of your estate after your death.

A very important step in this process is to review and update the beneficiaries on your policies or accounts as you list them. 


Step 3: Hire a Professional


Once you have completed steps one and two, it is time to consult a professional. An estate planning attorney is a great place to start. It is also important to include your financial advisor and accountant in the estate planning process. 

You might be wondering, "do I need an attorney for estate planning?" and the basic answer is yes. With something as important as the future of your estate, you will want a professional to answer your questions and ensure all legalities are in place. In addition, an estate planning attorney helps navigate the tax portion of an estate or trust. We all know taxes can be complex, so having an expert handle them can relieve stress and guarantee they will be correct. 

Overall, hiring a professional to plan your estate may not be free, but it will be well worth it for you and your beneficiaries. 


Reminder: Make Updates


While you can make a great estate plan, sometimes things change. You purchase another item to add to your inventory list, or maybe you want to update your beneficiaries or even your power of attorney. The point is you should regularly be updating your estate plan. I recommend that you review your documents, accounts, and beneficiaries at least every year. 


Time to Plan your Estate


Now that you know the importance of an estate plan and where to start, I hope the task seems more achievable. If you have any other questions, reach out to an estate planner or financial advisor for further direction. Our team is also equipped to help you sell parts of your estate from real estate or personal property, no matter what stage you are in.


McCurdy Real Estate & Auction and Kelsey K. Moore have placed this video and blog post for general information purposes only.  It is not a legal opinion, nor does it provide legal advice for any purpose, and does not create or constitute evidence of an attorney-client relationship.  Although the information provided is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or a substitute for the particularized advice of your counsel. Anyone seeking specific legal advice or assistance should retain an attorney.  

Jason Reed, GC

Jason Reed, GC

General Counsel, REALTOR®

Jason has over 25 years of experience in all phases of corporate law, such as due diligence, document review, financial analysis; real estate law including contract negotiations, drafting, private financing structuring, and business law cases. Additionally, during his years of private practice, Jason focused on estate planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney), Medicaid planning and qualification, Elder Law including senior transitions, guardianships and conservatorships and probate admin...

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