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Estate Planning Checklist: Documents to Gather

You can ensure that your heirs do not run into problems when your estate is divided by following an estate planning checklist of the documents to gather before the end-of-life.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on the 25 estate planning documents to have in order before you die, and the article is interesting as it stresses the 24 other documents you need besides your will.

Most people know about wills and the importance of wills to estate planning. But what most don't realize is that a will is not the end-all, be-all document.

That's because wills are frequently contested and may not specify all of your assets. Without other documents, your heirs may have to litigate their rights or may not even know that certain assets exist.

For example, The Journal reports that state treasurers are currently holding $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts and other assets. In addition, many life insurance companies are not paying out policies unless beneficiaries step forward. If a beneficiary is unaware of the policy, the insurance company keeps the money.

So what are some of the estate planning documents to organize before you die?

According to The Journal, here's a checklist of the major documents to consider:

  • Wills. As discussed above, the will is not the end-all, be-all estate planning document, but it's still the most important document. The will provides basic directions for who inherits your assets.
  • Proof of Ownership. Documents showing that you own things like your home, car, stocks, etc. will notify your family that you own these things and also help in property disputes.
  • Bank Information. A list of bank accounts and safety deposit boxes will better allow family members to close these accounts upon death.
  • Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts. As mentioned, many heirs are unaware that these policies and accounts exist.

The estate planning checklist is just a summary of the major categories of documents to organize before death. These estate planning documents will help the distribution of your assets.

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