Points to know
- Estate planning boils down to deciding how you'll provide for the future you want to leave your heirs.
- Estate planning involves inventorying your assets, developing a strategy, and assigning roles to carry out your plan.
Enjoy the peace of mind planning can bring
Estate planning can seem like a daunting task, but with the right guidance it becomes less complicated. And if you've already thought about your goals, you're well on your way.
Remember why you're doing this—careful estate planning lays the foundation to create the future you envision for your heirs. Your efforts can help you achieve many goals, such as:
- Providing support and financial stability for your spouse.
- Preserving assets for future generations.
- Supporting a favorite charity or other worthy cause.
- Ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
- Minimizing taxes and expenses.
- Ensuring that individuals you choose can make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated.
Take stock of what you own
The first step in estate planning is obvious but often undervalued—taking inventory. The simple task of documenting your assets makes things considerably easier for the people who will be implementing your wealth transfer plan.
We've created a worksheet—Your Personal Financial Inventory—where you can list your assets and other pertinent information in one place. Store the inventory in a safe location and tell your executor or personal representative where to find it.
What should you include? Everything you own or have an interest in, including investments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs (exchange-traded funds); retirement accounts; your home and other real estate; business interests; and personal property.
Remember to list life insurance policies, annuities, trusts, and joint accounts, as well as any debts you have. And provide a record of logistical details such as contact information, document locations, and guidance for funeral arrangements.
Formulate your strategy
Equipped with your goals and inventory, you can begin working with estate planning professionals to develop a strategy and create an estate plan.
Get to know roles and responsibilities
During the planning process, and later as you're sharing the details with your family, you'll be interacting with people in a variety of roles.
On the planning side, an estate planning attorney may be advising and assisting you. And among your heirs, individuals will be fulfilling different roles and responsibilities.
Explore more topics
Vanguard's advice services are provided by Vanguard Advisers, Inc. ("VAI"), a registered investment advisor, or by Vanguard National Trust Company ("VNTC"), a federally chartered, limited-purpose trust company.
The services provided to clients will vary based upon the service selected, including management, fees, eligibility, and access to an advisor. Find VAI's Form CRS and each program's advisory brochure here for an overview.
VAI and VNTC are subsidiaries of The Vanguard Group, Inc., and affiliates of Vanguard Marketing Corporation. Neither VAI, VNTC, nor its affiliates guarantee profits or protection from losses.