Money Matters: Estate Planning Checklist for Everyone

Cary, NC – Guest article by attorney Jackie Bedard of Carolina Family Estate Planning. Photo by Michal Hrabovec.

I hear the same excuses over and over….

  • I don’t have an “estate.”
  • I have more debt than assets.
  • The only thing I have is my home.


As you may have guessed, these are excuses that people make for not preparing an estate plan.

These people are sadly misinformed. They think estate planning is only about money.

Estate planning does take care of financial issues, but the way I see it, the most important reason for doing an estate plan is for the benefit of the people that you leave behind.

Plan Ahead and Save Heartache

Estate planning is essential for senior citizens who are concerned about the well-being of their loved ones. No matter what your level of wealth happens to be, there are decisions that will have to be made if you become incapacitated or when you pass on.

If you don’t leave detailed instructions for the type of medical care you want or what to do with your things, you will be putting those you love most in the position of being a mind-reader. They will have to do their best to figure out what you would have wanted and then deal with the consequences such as unhappy family members who disagree with them. Do you really want to cause this type of stress for them at a time when they are already upset and mourning?  I doubt it.

Estate Planning Checklist for Everyone

I realize thinking about these things is not easy or fun, but approaching it in an organized manner may help. Here’s a list of things to consider when planning your estate:

  1. Talk to close family members and let them know how you would like to handle the dispersal of your assets and sentimental items. Also, talk to them about the type of medical care you would like to receive should you become incapacitated. Chances are, if everyone knows your plans ahead of time, there will be fewer arguments and a lot less stress.
  2. Prepare a list of all of your assets including your home, your financial accounts, insurance policies and any personal possessions.
  3. Make a list of beneficiaries of your estate. You may also want to include organizations that are meaningful to you, such as charities, churches, schools or universities or civic organizations.
  4. Plan for your pets– if something should happen to you, how will they be cared for?
  5. Make a list of passwords, PIN numbers and other codes that someone might need and store them in a secure place (be sure someone know how to access).
  6. Who you would like to put in charge of your medical care and who you would like to oversee the dispersal of your assets. You can appoint different people for these critical jobs.
  7. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can offer advice about how to arrange your estate so that the person you put in charge of your financial and medical decisions will have the fewest complications.

These steps alone will go a long way in reducing the stress that your loved ones will experience. Isn’t their well-being enough reason to do an estate plan?

2 replies
  1. Barry Seltzer
    Barry Seltzer says:

    The statistics underscore an extremely sad situation permeating our society for anyone who loves their family and their companion animals. Your article underscores the need for planning in advance regarding one’s estate and also serves a useful purpose; to highlight for the general public the need and importance of pre-planning for one’s family and including ones pets in their estate planning.

    There are a multitude of resources available and more being put in place on a regular basis that are easily accessed by any interested party. Companion animal owners should be aware of the importance of including their pets in their estate plan and planning ahead for their family. There are many questions raised when planning that bear discussion and sometimes there are no easy answers.

    To secure the widest distribution of this transformative information as possible is in our opinion praiseworthy and of value to everyone concerned with their families and their companion animals.

    We hope as many people as possible will be encouraged to deal with this type of planning rather than leave it to others and the courts when they no longer can.


    Barry Seltzer, Barrister & Solicitor
    & Professor of Law, Gerry W .Beyer
    Co- Authors of Fat Cats And Lucky Dogs: How To Leave (Part Of) Your Estate To Your Pets

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