Connecticut Estate Planning Checklist

Close up of paperwork Will, Inventory of Estate, as well as Keys to Car and House, Visual concept for legal blog

You may have a vague plan for what you want your family’s future to look like and how you would like to be treated in your final days. But if you are ready to turn those general impressions into a concrete estate plan, you may want to work through this estate planning checklist for Connecticut residents. By giving serious thought to these questions, even before meeting with an estate planning attorney, you can ensure that your final wishes are preserved and your family is taken care of.

Preparing for an Estate Planning Consultation

The first step in creating a personalized estate plan is to identify what is most important to you. Estate planning attorneys can help you consider your options and draft documents that will carry out your wishes, but before they can get started you need to decide what those wishes are. An estate plan covers two important questions:

  1. How do you want to be treated in your final days?
  2. What do you want to happen to your assets after you pass away?

There are estate planning documents that cover everything from your medical care to your financial plan to providing for your family. The clearer the answer you have to these questions before meeting with your attorney the easier it will be to customize your estate plan to match your needs.

Estate Planning Checklist

The process of creating an estate plan involves actions and decisions taken by you and your estate planning attorney. Here is an estate planning checklist of questions to consider before meeting with your lawyer:

Trusted People to Act as Executors and Advocates

An important part of estate planning is designating who you want responsible for your medical care, your finances, and your estate. Choosing the right personal representative or health care advocate can be challenging in the face of complex family dynamics. It is important to select someone you think will do the job well, not the person closest to you. Consider the temperaments and training of the people you trust and select people you would like to handle:

  • Medical decision-making
  • Maintaining your financial affairs during your lifetime
  • Administering your trust or probate estate after your death
  • Acting as guardian for your children (if they are minors when you pass away)

Family Tree of Intended Beneficiaries

Under Connecticut law, if you die without a Will or estate plan, your property will be inherited by your spouse, children and grandchildren (descendants), or living parents. The shares each person receives depends on your family tree, including whether you have children from another relationship. Consider putting together a family tree of all your living relatives. Be sure to include any step-children or others who are not technically related to you, but to whom you want to leave assets. If you are not legally related to every one of your beneficiaries, if you want to bequeath property to relatives in proportions other than as set forth in the statute, or if you want to exclude someone from receiving a share, you will need a Last Will and Testament or trust to ensure they receive the property you intend for them.

Charitable Organizations for Gifts

Your estate planning checklist should also include charitable donations you may want to make in your will. Connecticut is one of several states that has an estate tax (though there is no inheritance tax). If your Connecticut taxable estate is more than $12.92 million, a percentage of your assets could end up going to the government, instead of your heirs. That’s in addition to federal estate taxes on estates exceeding $13.61 million.

Donations to religious and other charitable organizations can offset the taxable value of a high-asset estate, ensuring that your assets go to the people and causes you care about most. They can also help you leave a legacy, knowing that your money will be used to make a difference even after you are gone.

Living Will Considerations

Your estate planning checklist should also include setting aside time to consider your end-of-life care. You may want your health care advocate to prioritize your quality of life over the number of your days. You should also consider your funeral and burial wishes. These are emotionally difficult questions, and it is best if you have given thought to them before you are sitting at a lawyer’s conference table.

Asset List for Estate Planning

On a more practical level, you should also identify all your assets, funds, and digital accounts that will need to be addressed after you die. An asset list documents all the assets you own, and where they can be found (physically or digitally). It should include:

  • Business interests (including stocks)
  • Homes, vacation properties, and real estate
  • Automobiles, boats, motorcycles, and vehicles with titles
  • Recreational vehicles
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Retirement assets
  • Insurance plans (especially life insurance)
  • Jewelry
  • Collectibles, especially those of significant value
  • Firearms
  • Artwork
  • Furniture
  • Credit cards
  • Outstanding medical bills
  • Loans and mortgages
  • Unpaid debts
  • Social media accounts (with passwords)
  • Cloud storage accounts (with passwords)
  • Cryptocurrency accounts
  • Sentimental items and other tangible personal property

An asset list will not replace your estate plan and is not legally binding , but it can ensure that all your property is accounted for when the formal documents are prepared.

Estate Planning Documents Checklist

Once you have met with your estate planning attorney they will prepare the necessary documents to protect your interests and carry out your wishes. The specific documents in your estate plan will vary but they could include:

  • Last Will and Testament which tells the Connecticut probate court what you want done with your assets, and who should be responsible for doing it.
  • Living Revocable Trust or Irrevocable Trust which create a separate legal entity to oversee and distribute your assets to your beneficiaries.
  • Power of Attorney which authorizes someone to make financial decisions and pay your bills when you are unable to do so.
  • Living Will or Health Care Directive which provides guidance for your health care advocate to make those medical decisions.
  • Beneficiary Designations, often provided by your bank, financial advisor, or insurance provider, indicate who should receive your assets after your death.
  • Digital Asset Lists (with URLs and Passwords) which will help your executor identify and access your online accounts (Note that some platforms have specific processes to designate a person to handle your account after your death.)
  • Funeral and Burial Instructions to help your family make choices for your final memorial.

Work Through Your Connecticut Estate Plan with an Experienced Attorney

The estate planning attorneys at Lawrence & Jurkiewicz, LLC represent clients in Hartford and Litchfield Counties. Attorney Edward Jurkiewicz has decades of experience helping individuals and families plan for their future. Please call us at (860) 264-1551 or contact us at your convenience to go through your estate plan checklist and prepare your last will and testament.

Categories: Estate Planning