Estate Planning, Part 3: Create an Estate-Planning Checklist

Essentials You Don't Want to Overlook

September 2012

Providing an estate-planning checklist is part of our four-part estate-planning series, and while Ally Bank doesn't offer services in this area, we're always on the lookout for ways we can help customers make informed financial decisions.

An estate-planning checklist should include the key documents that will be involved. These include:

  • A will
    This document describes how you want your assets to be distributed, and any special instructions that you want carried out. Basically, every adult should have a will.
  • A durable power of attorney
  • A durable power of attorney formally designates someone to take care of your affairs while you are alive if you cannot - if you are sick, have been in an accident, or are otherwise disabled.
  • A medical power of attorney
    This checklist item names someone who has the authority to make major medical decisions for you when you cannot, including end-of-life decisions.

An estate-planning checklist also should cover the information you need to pull together in order to create a plan. You should:

  • Create a net-worth statement.
    "When preparing to meet with a professional, you should have a net worth statement, listing all your larger assets as well as a list of any special gifts you would want to make," said Jim Heitman, owner of Compass Financial Planning in Alta Loma, California, in a recent interview with Ally Bank. This should include liabilities as well as assets.
  • Assess your life insurance and bank accounts.
    Correctly titling and listing beneficiaries on certificates of deposit (CDs) as well as on money market, savings, and checking accounts can smooth the transfer of these assets.

    When this is done properly, "They can be a good way to make sure someone, like a spouse, can access assets during the transition," said Heitman. "Designated beneficiary accounts are a good way to mark an asset for a particular heir outside of a will or trust."
  • Decide whom you will count on.
    "You will need to think about who you want to administer your estate - your executor or co-executors," said Erin Baehr, president of Baehr Financial in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in a recent interview with Ally Bank.

    "If you have children," Baehr said, "you'll need to name a guardian. This can be a difficult decision and often stalls the process for young parents - but don't let that happen to you. It's better for you to decide who your children's guardian would be rather than the courts."
  • Think about what you might want to say.
    "Remember that the estate plan is about much more than money," said Heitman. "Your estate should include some personal communications to pass along those values and the affection you want to express."
  • Get started.
    Finally, when you get around to creating your estate-planning checklist, this is one item you might want to put at the top. "The first mistake that most people make in state planning is simply not doing it," said Heitman. "A person who dies intestate [without a will or other document] can leave a real mess behind."

    And once you're started, keep up the good work: With a plan in place, be sure to update it after major life events, such as a marriage or after the birth of a child.

About Ally Bank

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Learn more and get started at, knowing live customer care is available anytime you need us, 24/7 via email, chat and phone at 877-247-ALLY (2559).

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