Estate Planning Checklist in California

Everyone has an “Estate.” Planning for guardianship, asset flow & protection, charitable giving & deductions, and tax implications can provide you with financial confidence knowing you and yours are covered.


A knowledgeable and experienced Estate Planning advisor works to limit estate tax issues and costly probate court fees while protecting the things you hold dear. Ensuring correct asset titling and flow to your intended heirs or beneficiaries. Meanwhile, providing unique gifting strategies, incapacity planning, and intra-family planning techniques that most advisors are unfamiliar with.

Here is an easy-to-follow estate planning checklist to help you build, protect, and preserve your assets and their intended succession plan. Please reach out with questions, and remember that no two person’s situations are the same.

Take Inventory

Everything you own is considered your estate. Itemizing your assets is the first and most important step in protecting them. To start:

      1. List the value of your home and other real estate along with cars, jewelry, artwork, and other physical assets.
      2. Gather recent statements from your bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts.
      3. Include the location and contents of any safety deposit boxes or safes.
      4. Make a list of all insurance policies, noting their cash values(if any) and death benefits. Include the date of purchase and, if a Term-Life policy, the length of the Term before the premium increases.
      5. List all liabilities, including mortgages, lines of credit, and other debt.

We give our clients access to a powerful financial planning and asset-gathering tool called WealthVision. Which can help organize assets and assist us in planning your financial journey. Let us know if you want to learn more about our financial planning tool.

Drafting Your Estate Plan

Once you have taken inventory, you are almost ready to meet with an estate planning attorney. If you need help finding one, we have a few we like to utilize for our clientele and can connect you. Be prepared to answer these questions, among others…

      1. Who should inherit your assets, and in what proportions?
      2. Who should care for your minor children?
      3. How much is needed for your children’s care and education?
      4. Who should manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated?
      5. Who should be responsible for distributing your assets?

We have found these commonalities when working with clients that could potentially assist you in deciding what type of estate planning you’ll need.

      1. Essential for ALL
          1. Asset titling and beneficiary designations
          2. Living Will (Guardianship if you have minor children)
          3. Power of Attorney (Medical and Financial)
          4. Advanced Directives
      2. Essential for Most
          1. Life Insurance and Risk Management
      3. Essential for Some
          1. Trusts
          2. Estate Tax Planning (if substantially wealthy)

Putting the Plan in Action

Now it’s time to meet with your estate planning attorney to review the above items and craft the appropriate documents. Keep in mind some of the following…

      1. If you had a trusted created, make sure to fund it immediately. Otherwise, the trust agreement may not take effect, meaning assets may not flow to beneficiaries as you had intended.
      2. Review the beneficiaries on your accounts to ensure correct succession. If possible, retitle non-retirement accounts into your trust to avoid probate court for those assets. Probate court is NOT avoided if the assets are titled (or beneficiary titled) Community Property, Estate, Singly Owned, or Tenancy in Common. I like to remember these by the made-up word COMESTIC.

I suggest you regularly review your estate plan with your Financial Planner to ensure nothing needs to be updated or changed. An iron-clad estate plan can save you and your successors a lot of stress and headaches in the future!

Important Disclosures:

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.