What Should I Add to My Estate Planning Checklist?

Estate planning checklist
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An estate planning checklist can keep you accountable and organized.

When it comes to estate planning, creating and reviewing your plan is a significant step.

Without an estate plan in place, you will leave the settlement of your affairs up to the probate courts and the laws of your state.

This is not ideal.

Your values have guided your decisions in life.

Do not abdicate this responsibility in your death.

According to a recent Forbes article titled “Checklist 2020 Planning Follow Through: You Have More Work To Do,” making an estate planning checklist can protect you from accidentally overlooking aspects of your estate plan.

What should you consider including in your estate planning checklist?

An estate planning checklist can help you organize your plan.
Start out 2021 by creating an estate planning checklist.


Many parents loan money to their adult children.

Whether it be for education, house payments, or business costs, investing in your children without simply providing a handout can be satisfying for both you and your adult child.

How so?

You provide support.

They have ownership and buy-in.

If you make a loan, you should schedule dates for interest payments and make certain these are paid according to the outlined instructions in the promissory note.

IRS and creditors alike require correct documentation of payments for the transaction to be treated as a loan.

Failing to do so may result in this transaction being recategorized or disregarded.

Irrevocable trusts.

As part of your estate planning checklist, you should make gifts each year to the trust to fund insurance premiums.

Does your trust include annual demand powers?

These are also known as Crummey powers.

If yes, you will need to give written notices of gifts to qualify these for the annual gift tax exclusion.

This can prove complicated.

If you made outright gifts to heirs directly and made transfers to multiple trusts, the gifts may need to be prioritized according to the terms of the trust and dates of the gifts.

Doing so clarifies whether each gift qualifies for the annual exclusion.

You may need to file a gift tax return to allocate a generation skipping transfer tax exemption to a gift made to the trust.

Discussing your tax concerns with your estate planning attorney can help you avoid make mistakes with funding or gifting to your trust.

Life insurance.

If you have a life insurance policy, you should include reviewing your policy performance and the appropriateness of coverage as part of your estate planning checklist.

This should be done every couple of years.

If you did not review your life insurance last year, prioritize it in 2021.

Trustee fees.

Do you have institutional trustees?

Their fees will need to be paid annually.

Directly paying the fee makes the fee an additional gift to the trust.

What does this mean?

You will need to file a gift tax return for the year.

Does the trust pay the fee directly?

If yes, it may not have tax implications.

Your estate planning attorney will be able to provide clarity on whether there will be tax considerations with regards to paying your trustee.

Disclaimer mechanism.

When making a transfer to your trust with a disclaiming mechanism, you may want to reconsider your planning.


Your beneficiaries or a trustee can disclaim the gift within nine months of the transfer.

This action may subvert your planning.


Did you set up a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust this past year?

If yes, add the required annuity payments to your estate planning checklist.

If your trustee misses payments, it could jeopardize the GRAT status of your trust.

You will also want to double check within the trust how the payment is calculated.

Add these considerations to your estate planning checklist and review them regularly to ensure your estate plan continues to align with current laws and life circumstances.

ReferenceForbes (Dec. 27, 2020) “Checklist 2020 Planning Follow Through: You Have More Work To Do”

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