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What to Start With When Planning Your Estate

by Phil Levin, Esq. on June 1st, 2020

When planning your estate, you’re probably going to feel a little overwhelmed at some point (and that’s why your estate planner is there to help you!) Sure, in general terms, you might have considered what is and isn’t in your estate, but when you get down to it, you might realize you have way more stuff than you thought you did. This in turn leads to the question of what you should protect first. What assets are so important that they should be the first things you start with in your estate plan?

Ideally, you want to protect everything, because everything is important in its own way. But you have to start somewhere. Here is a suggested list of what you should start with, in no particular order. Note that some of these aren’t necessarily assets in the traditional sense (i.e. tangible items), but they do deserve a mention.

Your Home

First and most obvious, you need to think about your home, if you own one. Think about what you want to have done with your house after you pass on. Do you want it sold? Do you want it to be granted to your relatives? Owning a house is a big responsibility, and it can be expensive. If you want to have your home liquidated, that could be the best option if you’re unsure whether your relatives could financially support home ownership.

Your Business

This can apply to a business you own or just your assets that you have from work (equipment, stocks, etc.). If you have equipment or a business that you want to keep in the family, you should protect that in your estate plan. You can also include other plans for what you might want done with it, such as sale, transfer of ownership, or something else.

Family Items

Everyone has family heirlooms and items that they don’t want to see leave the family. These items are important to your heritage and help future generations understand your origins. Include these valuables in your estate plan and make sure you grant them to someone you know will keep them safe and pass them along, ensuring that the heirlooms are kept in the family.

Intangible Assets

You may have stocks and investments that you count among your assets. When you pass away, think about what you want done with them and whether you think it will be more profitable to sell or transfer them. Make sure you grant these intangibles to someone that you know will be able to manage them, particularly if you’re giving away cryptocurrency, which is volatile and, although very popular, hard to handle.


When creating an estate plan, you want to make sure that your own needs are met in the form of a healthcare directive and power of attorney. These documents ensure that your financial and medical needs will be taken care of according to your specifications should something happen to you to prevent you from making those decisions yourself.

Your Kids

If you have minor children, even teenagers, you will want to have some type of plan laid out for guardianship in case something happens to you. Make sure that you select guardians who not only have your overall values, but who will also keep your kids’ day to day life stable and secure. This a big decision, so don’t be afraid to take a lot of time to think about who you would want to raise your kids.

This quick list of things to think about when estate planning will help you get some idea of what, out of your giant pile of stuff, is important and should stand out. Talk to your estate planner if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help, as they can assist you in picking out what you absolutely shouldn’t forget to cover, whether you desire to create your Will, Revocable Living Trust, Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, or HIPAA Waiver Authorization.

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