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Organize for optimal estate planning: a checklist

Curious about what it would involve to get your information organized to complete your estate plan? It takes one folder, some time, and a little patience. In this case, time is money.

The extra time you spend bringing together necessary information into one folder, the more money your surviving spouse or heirs will save and recover from your estate. Here are some categories of information to include in your estate information.

All Retirement Benefits and Investments

• All investment portfolios

  • Pension information
  • All IRAs, 401(k) and 403(b)

Bank and Credit Accounts

This information includes everything from accounts that you use daily to investments that are earning long-term interest.

• Checking, savings, certificates of deposit and money market accounts

• Mortgages or loans

• Credit Card numbers, expirations and online access information

Insurance Policies

It's also important to have a full list of all your insurance policies in your folder, complete with:

• Type of insurance and expiration date

• Complete contact information for transfer, withdrawal or cancellation

Health Information

This wide-ranging category covers health insurance information, doctor names and contact information, current diagnoses and prescribed medicines. This category will need to be updated more frequently than many of the others. Automatically refilling prescriptions are covered below.

Ownership Documentation

Even if you keep your documents in a separate place such as a personal safe or bank safe deposit box, make a note in your folder about where these papers can be found.

• Property deeds

• Titles to all vehicles

Recurring Bills and Services

• Information on all utilities

• Automatic medication renewal

• Any bills with automatic payment

Estate Planning

Gathering all pertinent information will enable you and your attorney to establish legal paperwork to make sure your wishes get carried out.

• Trust agreement documentation (with any associated bank account information)

• Power of attorney

• Health care proxy

• Living will

In the case of estate planning, knowledge really is power. It's the power that the executor of your estate can use to help your surviving spouse or your heirs settle your estate and access assets.

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