Estate Planning Checklist

January 20, 2021

As we enter a fresh new year, one of the best ways to feel truly organized is to review and update your estate plan and take the necessary steps to make sure that your estate and trusts will be administered with care and precision in the future. 

An Estate Plan Review may seem overwhelming, but it is a kindness to those you leave behind and the best way for you to make your plan work. A key first step is to collect all your planning documents and statements into one notebook. This consolidation and evaluation process may help eliminate outdated documents and identify missing records you may need to request from your advisors and others. 

The next step is to utilize the following Estate Plan Checklist to outline the areas that may need your attention.

This guide may assist as you reflect and re-organize:


  • Review your Estate Plan and any relevant tax law changes with your estate planning attorney.
  • Confirm that your Will has been signed and your executor knows where the original is stored.
  • Create a digital plan that works, i.e., think about it from the perspective of someone else needing to access your devices if you are no longer here. Having everything in one place scanned to a file on your laptop is great, but if nobody has the password to access your computer it can lead to significant expense and delay. Likewise, think about the photos that could be lost from your phone or electronic tablet. Make a clear list of all relevant passwords and logins for all your electronic devices.  Make sure your executor and one other trusted person know how to access the list.
  • Consult your financial advisors to discuss overall investment strategy. Have your investment goals changed? Have your income needs changed?
  • Contact your insurance advisor to review your life insurance policies. As example, the performance of the policies should be reviewed to make sure that the current premium will sustain the policies for the desired timeframe. Ask for a copy of in-force policy illustrations and beneficiary designations. Beneficiary designation forms, and not your will, direct the payment of policy proceeds at your death.
  • Review beneficiary designations on retirement plan accounts and annuities.
  • Examine asset ownership to confirm assets are titled correctly (especially if assets have been transferred to revocable trusts or are parts of other planning strategies).
  • Draft or review a Letter of Instruction to guide your executor and trustee. For example, do you have additional guidance for your trustee in making beneficiary distributions in the future?
  • Review the titling of bank accounts, especially joint accounts and ‘Paid on Death’ or ‘Transfer on Death’ designations, which can cause liquidity issues for your estate if the funds won’t be available to pay estate expenses.
  • Write a Legacy Letter to family members to share your values, blessings, and life lessons. What is the main purpose of the trust? What values or stories would you like to share in connection with your gifts?
  • Meet with the Pendleton Square team to understand the value of an independent corporate trustee, build a family relationship and document your plans and wishes. How can Pendleton Square best ensure that your plans are known and carried out? 

We recommend that you review the above checklist annually, and January is often the best time to do this as you plan for the upcoming year.  Providing this checklist is a way that Pendleton Square helps guide generations forward and provide an unsurpassed client experience. We welcome the opportunity to help you meet your 2021 estate planning goals.

About the author: 

Elizabeth Hickman is Director of Estate Services and a Trust Officer at Pendleton Square Trust Company, LLC, a leading independent trust company chartered in the State of Tennessee. Nothing in this article should be construed as providing legal or tax advice regarding your specific situation.