“Make two lists: your assets and the people you would like to own these assets one day,” advise the authors of The Beneficiary Book. That may not be as easy as it sounds, they caution. “In many cases, the hardest part about estate planning is taking inventory of your possessions and wealth. It will take time. Many don’t realize how much they have until it is all written down.”

Your estate is a compilation of all your property, and includes everything you own that is of value. But don’t consider only your real estate, cars, and investments, because personal items are a major part of the estate planning process, says Bill Taylor of the University of Wyoming. That’s because, he explains, “these personal items create complex emotional and family relationships which impact decision making”. Personal items may include:

  • Guns, sports equipment
  • Tools
  •  Furniture
  • Books, papers
  • Dishes
  • Collections
  • Hobby or handmade items
  • Linens, needlework, quilts
  • Clothes
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Antiques

An inventory list could be on paper, digital (using a computer program), or it could take the form of a labeled photo scrapbook or even a video tape. Whichever form your list takes, “let your family and fiduciaries know where to find the information at the time of your death,” the disinheritirs.com website states.

Investopedia calls a physical items inventory “Must Do No. 1”, telling readers to start things out by “going through the inside and outside of your home and making a list of all items worth $100 or more.” The authors add several items to the list shown above:

  • Laptops and tablets
  • Lawn mowers
  • Power tools
  • Television sets

As we often tell our clients at Geyer & Associates, the lists are elements in your part of the estate planning process. Only you can provide your attorney with the complete picture of everything you own. And, since most of us are constantly discarding some possessions and acquiring others, the inventory list is probably the part of your estate plan in need of the most frequent updating.

While estate planning is serious business, with “one wrong word or one missing signature capable of changing the entire intent of a will or trust,” as Julie Garber writes in aboutmoney.com, your to lists are definitely DIY projects!