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Death can come at the least expected time. There is no way you can know for sure exactly when you will pass away. But, when it comes to planning for your estate, you do not have to know when you will die to start preparing now. However, failing to make the necessary preparations before passing away can result in serious legal issues for your family and loved ones. 

The following are some of the most important things you need to do before passing away. 

Create list of assets 

First, you will have to make a list of the assets you need to account for in your estate plan. This should include your physical assets as well as your non-physical assets. Physical assets may include things such as a home, car, or fine art collection. Non-physical assets would include items such as brokerage accounts, 401(k) accounts or life insurance policies. 

Gather a list of debts owed 

Assemble a list of debts owed which will need to be paid off before your beneficiaries receive your assets. This includes debts on credit cards, home loans, car loans, home equity lines of credit and any other liabilities you may owe to a creditor. 

Make a list of memberships 

Create a list of any memberships to groups such as alumni groups, professional accreditation associations, AARP, or a veteran’s association. It is possible some of these groups will have accidental life insurance policies for members. Your heirs may be able to obtain payouts of benefits. 

Assemble list of charitable organizations 

Having a list of charitable organizations who support causes you care about will allow you to take this into consideration during your estate planning process. 

Make copies of lists 

You should have three copies of your lists. One should be given to the administrator of your estate. Another should be given to your spouse or other trusted family member if you are not married. Also, you should keep one list for yourself in a safe deposit box. 

Review all retirement accounts 

Make sure to look into all of your retirement accounts to see if they allow you to list designated beneficiaries. This will help ensure the funds in the accounts will go to your intended heirs. 

Update insurance policies 

Review your life insurance policies and annuities to make sure your beneficiaries are the individuals indicated to receive the benefits payout after you pass away. Your preferences may change with time so make sure to do this regularly. 

Look at transfer on death designations 

Many financial accounts, such as bank accounts and brokerage accounts will have the option to set up a transfer on death (TOD) designation. This helps your intended heirs avoid probate on these particular accounts which can save your friends and family plenty of headache. 

Create a will or a trust 

Drafting a will or creating a trust is a necessary part of having a comprehensive and effective estate plan. These legal instruments are essentially guidelines and instructions on which assets should go to which beneficiary. 

Comprehensive estate planning 

Of course, just a will or a trust is only a part of a complete estate planning strategy. You will need to have many other legal documents in place, including power of attorney documents. Let us help point you in the right direction for estate planning.



Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Strategies mentioned may not be suitable for all individuals. Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making a decision. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.