While Organizing for Tax Return Preparation, Keep Your Estate Planning Needs in Mind

My accountant follows the recommended practice of sending her clients an organizer every year in the hope that clients will more easily, accurately and efficiently be able to collect and present their financial information to her. Even if you don’t use a CPA, tax season has most of us assembling financial documents and making lists.

This organization process is a great opportunity for you to consider your estate planning, as well as whether it is organized in accordance with your current circumstances and provides the most efficient way to ensure your assets pass to your intended beneficiaries.

Make a list of everything you own, how it is titled and if there is a beneficiary.

If an item is important to you, you want to ensure it is passed down correctly, so include it on your list and indicate which recipients should get which assets.

Some of these items may include:

Real Property. This could include your main residence, as well as camp or Florida home, rental properties or timeshares, whether owned individually, with a spouse or other family member.
Personal Assets. Gather statements for your checking, savings and investment accounts, including: retirement accounts, 529 college savings, annuities, and insurance policies, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and treasuries. Confirm with documentation the way in which the account(s) are titled and any beneficiaries or transfer on death instruction.

Other items to List:

The number and location of any safe deposit box.
Any item of particular value, especially collectibles and debts owed to you. Hand guns and long guns.
Licenses, patents, royalties, or other income producing assets.
Other personal items for which you want to specify the intended beneficiary. Other considerations:
Changes due to laws and regulations
Your age and any significant health changes
Any changes to your choices for your executor, trustee, or guardian
Any changes to the beneficiaries listed in your plan
Any new assets to include in your plan

Next, think through your list and take action if needed. Although younger people may be less likely to put estate planning front and center, it can be important to get a head

start. If you need help, ask your tax professional or make an appointment with my office to get your planning documents in order.

Finally, consider ways in which you can keep this information organized and centralized for future reference by you or your family should the need arise. I personally like a binder system with plastic page protectors in which I can keep copies with the most up- to-date account information, beneficiary designations, insurance policies, medical reports, deeds, tax bills, driver’s license, credit cards, etc.

I have created an information organizer that is available as a free download here:


The good work you do proactively can save money and aggravation in the long run. I hope you find this helpful and motivational!

Law Office of Kathleen M. Toombs – 157 Barrett Street, Schenectady, NY (518) 688-2846 – helpdesk@toombslawny.com

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