Your estate planning doesn’t end with creating a Will or a Living Trust. Whatever estate planning tool you use, it is essential to know what assets will fund these vehicles and provide for your heirs (and creditors) after you are gone.
For your estate, the Probate Court and the Internal Revenue Service will need to know the precise value of your assets on the day you die. If you own your home, that means a qualified appraiser will need to come and assess the market value of the property. As part of the estate planning process, you can get a rough idea of your home’s value by checking the property tax assessment from your local government.
Other assets, like checking accounts and stocks, can be valued by your executor. This is why it is important to not only select an executor who you trust to make such assessments — but also to maintain clear records of your assets so that the executor does not waste time and energy searching for what you own. Remember, the executor has a legal duty to gather and distribute all of your assets in accordance with the terms of your Will. Do not make his or her job harder by making those assets difficult to locate.
As always, you should work with a qualified estate planning attorney to devise a Will or Living Trust that best suits your assets and financial situation. As part of the estate planning process, you should prepare and give your estate planning attorney an itemized list of your assets, including smaller items like jewelry, so that he or she can maximize the financial benefits of your estate plan.