Estate & Inheritance Planning: Here’s an 8-Step Basic Checklist

Owning assets brings a lot of responsibility, and estate planning is one of them. If you own a piece of land or real estate property, giving an estate plan to your inheritors makes it easier for them to settle things once you’re gone.

But it’s common to miss out on an estate plan because most people believe the will is sufficient to do the job. However, ensuring an inheritance plan can be easy to manage assets when the owner becomes incapacitated or dies.

In many cases, the heirs are unsure about the ownership of the assets, which leads to differences of opinion among family members. Nearly 35% of people in the US believe they have experienced or witnessed family conflicts due to the unavailability of an estate plan or a will. On top of that, estate planning gives you peace of mind about the security of your assets.

What is an Estate Planning Checklist

Having an estate plan checklist makes it easier to manage all your assets. It’s a guide about how you should use your financial situation according to state law. Proper estate planning lets you decide how to manage your finances in your absence. 

You can:

  • Decide what assets you must pass on to your loved ones
  • Prepare a roadmap for medical care
  • Ensure protection for your assets
  • Get a good idea of your existing belongings
  • Designate guardianship of your assets to the right person

Things to Consider in an Inheritance and Estate Plan

So how do you plan your inheritance list and estate plan? Here are some easy ways and a stepwise guide to developing a vast inheritance and estate plan checklist.

  1. Create a List of Estate Items

Start with compiling a list of your existing assets. List down all the valuable items that you possess. This could be a long list, but it’s essential to add everything you can remember. 

For instance, the list could feature the following:

  • Jewelry
  • Art and antique items
  • Electronic appliances such as television, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.
  • Vehicles
  • Computers, laptops, smartphones, etc.
  • Power tools
  • Home maintenance and power tools

While making a list, making small notes is also a good idea if you want any specific items to be handed over to someone.

  1. Add Non-Physical and Financial Assets

The non-physical assets include your digital assets, such as your investments, cryptocurrencies, and online savings. You can also add your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and similar items to the list. 

Also, add credit cards, paychecks, retirement accounts, and tax returns to the list to make it more comprehensive. In addition, it will ensure that your pending bills and payments are made once you’re not around. Once the list is exhausted, you will realize that your ownership of things could be unimaginably broad.

  1. Draft a Plan

Once you thoroughly understand the assets, you are now in the position of creating a lifelong, solid estate plan. While drafting the plan, here are a few questions that will help you address the critical aspects of your will:

  • Who are your beneficiaries?
  • Who do you trust as the manager of your estate?
  • Do you wish to pass on all the assets?
  • Do you have any minor children? Who will guardian them?
  • What quality of end-of-life care do you want?
  • Do you want to include a charity in your plan?
  • What is your expected worth of estate?

Typically, trusted estate planning documents provide a more robust understanding of the essential requirements for such plans. So, it’s a great idea to use them while creating the plan.

  1. Decide the Beneficiaries

Thinking of who you want to pass on the assets to is a crucial step in estate planning. Generally, immediate family members like spouses and children are considered beneficiaries. However, US law allows a person to decide the beneficiaries independently.

More importantly, beneficiaries don’t need to be individuals. Instead, they can be companies, NGOs, or any other organization too.

  1. Write Your Will

Your will should decide the new owners of your property. So, make sure to write a comprehensive draft clearly outlining who receives what. Name your guardians and the executor to manage affairs on your behalf.

Interestingly, making a will is quite easy, thanks to comprehensive online estate planning tools. If you don’t leave a will after you’re gone, all your assets go to the probate courts. 

The probate courts will then decide who shall receive your property. It could complicate things for the person managing your property, as they must first apply to act as an administrator for your property.

  1. Select a Responsible Estate Administrator

Choosing the right property administrator is one of the most critical parts of an estate plan. Also known as the executor, the estate administrator will take charge of your property affairs, deciding what happens to it once you are no longer there.

That’s why it’s important to choose someone you trust and have the right mindset to decide your property matters. While it’s easy to consider your spouse as the best option, it’s also critical to think of the emotional aspect.

Hence, you must be completely sure about who could be the best option for managing your estate.

  1. Make Copies of Your Lists

When you have the estate plan and will compiled, make several copies of these documents, and store them in different and secure places. Give the real copy to the designated administrator and another copy to your spouse or children.

It’s also a good idea to keep some copies in a deposit or safe box for added security.

  1. Regular Document Update

Making an estate plan isn’t a one-time job. Instead, it’s better to review your plan and make necessary changes to it. For instance, you may want to add more assets, new beneficiaries, etc.

Sometimes, these changes may be forced due to life events, like:

  • Deaths
  • Divorce
  • Birth of a child

Interestingly, only 34% of Americans have an estate plan, and out of those, around 20% have not updated their plan in the last five years. However, it’s a good idea to review your plan every two years or in case of a major life-changing event.


Making an estate and inheritance plan isn’t a tough job, and it takes care of quite an important business. Hence, making a comprehensive estate plan should be among your top priorities to prevent family disputes and ensure that your wealth stays in trusted hands.