Estate planning checklist

Get organized, document your goals, and put a successful plan into action.

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You've worked hard to build all you have. Now find out how to preserve it—with careful estate planning—for peace of mind and for those you love. Your estate plan is an important part of your retirement planning efforts. It puts you in control as it spells out how your assets will be distributed after your death and how your wishes for your family and charities are to be followed.

To jumpstart this process, we've created an estate planning checklist that can help you get organized, document your goals and objectives, and put a successful estate plan into action.

Tip: There's a lot to cover, so we've broken it down into 3 sections. Putting an estate plan in place can take several weeks or months so don't feel like you have to do it all in one sitting.

Let's get started…

Getting organized

Gather your documents

  • Organize your bank and financial account statements including any annuities, savings, brokerage, and retirement plan accounts, as well as beneficiary designations, real estate deeds, and insurance policies
  • Also include any existing estate planning documents such as your will, trust, power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA release, organ donation form, living will, letter of intent, and letter of instruction

Identify any assets and liabilities

  • Catalog all your assets, their location, and their value
  • List all your liabilities
  • Record ownership/titling
  • Review your beneficiary designations
  • List and estimate the value of your important personal items such as jewelry, artwork, or other valuable objects

Store your original documents in a safe place

  • Select a fireproof place—such as a bank safe deposit box for storage—or even your attorney's office.
  • Give instructions to your key contacts on where your documents are located and how to access them.

Tip: Read 5 ways to protect what's yours and learn why it's important to keep your key documents and beneficiaries up to date.

Define your goals and objectives

Think about your vision

Who do you want to leave your assets to (now or at death), and for what purpose?

Consider:

  • How you want to pass on your wealth to future generations
  • Paying for children's or grandchildren's educations
  • Gifting to friends and partners
  • How your health care needs will be met
  • Philanthropic or charitable giving options

Define your legacy

Engage family and close friends to think about your legacy and what you want to leave for the people you love.

Consider:

  • Who should receive your assets and what should be done with them after your passing?
  • How much will be given to family vs. friends vs. charities?
  • Do you have a "special cause" that you'd like to see outlive you?
  • Which philanthropic or charitable giving options do you want to support?

Choose key roles

Select the people who will help put your plan into action:

  • Your personal representative/executor
  • Trustee
  • Guardian for your children
  • Agents/attorneys in fact

Put your plan into place

Create a key contact list

Who should be called in the event of your passing? Your family members, attorney, or best friend? Keep your key contact list in an envelope or give it to a backup person.

Draft, execute, and store documents

Organize properly updated documents (durable power of attorney, health care directive) that can provide legal authority to others to help manage financial assets and medical decisions on your behalf if you are mentally or physically unable.

You may wish to save a backup copy of key documents in a virtual safe such as FidSafe®, Fidelity's free on line storage system.

Implement your estate plan

Ensure assets and other documents are coordinated with your estate plan, which may require retitling certain assets or adjusting beneficiary designations.

Create a digital asset list

Record user IDs, account numbers, and passwords for all on line accounts; keep them in an extremely secure place and update regularly.

Update your plan every 3-5 years

Review your estate plan regularly and update it after major life events:

  • Marriage and remarriage
  • Divorce
  • Births and adoptions
  • Death

Or changes in your financial situation:

  • Purchases of large assets
  • Major financial events
  • When debts are paid off

Get started today

Working with Fidelity through a financial planning session, you can focus on important topics, including retirement and estate planning strategies that can help you manage risks and protect your wealth for you and your loved ones.

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Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially impact investment results. Fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.
FidSafe® is not a Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC service. FidSafe is a service of XTRAC LLC, a Fidelity Investments company.

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