Planning Your Estate the Right Way

How to Inventory Assets For An Estate Plan

When making a will, taking an inventory of your assets should be your first step. Grouping assets together is the easiest approach. This allows you to organize the assets such as bank accounts, money markets and certificates of deposit together, rather than lumping it with real estate, automobiles and jewelry, which makes it much harder to prepare their distribution later.

Consider all of your physical possessions. Make a list of all of the items you own, including real estate, including your primary residence, vehicles, artwork, furnishings, tools, jewelry, electronics, guns, and other valuable items.

Of course, you can’t forget about those intangible assets as well. Add your 401(k)s, IRAs, and stocks and brokerage accounts. These are all a part of your estate, and you will want to have a list of all of those things, so you can get a better idea of what your total estate is going to be worth. Don’t forget other intangible assets, such as patents, royalties, copyrights and other intellectual properties. 

Don’t Forget to List Your Debts

In addition to the things that you own, make a list of what you owe, your debts. This includes unsecured debt, such as credit cards that you carry balances on, as well as auto loans and mortgages.

Once you take inventory, make copies of your list. Whenever anything changes on that list – such as selling an item or paying off a credit card – make updates. Your estate planner needs a current list of assets to ensure an accurate estate plan.

Who Will Handle Your Affairs?

Selecting an executor, sometimes called personal representative, to execute the terms of your last will is just as important as taking inventory of assets. You executor acts as a fiduciary in good faith to handle your end-of-life affairs. The executor needs to be a trustworthy and honest person who is capable of fulfilling the duties that he or she is charged with performing on your behalf. Choose a surviving spouse, an adult child or other local family member. In some cases, people select an attorney as executor to avoid creating conflict between the heirs.