Documents Needed in Estate Planning

Estate planning counts
A well-planned estate is a wonderful legacy you can leave your heirs — instead of untangling a messy estate, they can follow concrete steps, allowing them to take care of business while mourning their loved one. Last week was National Estate Planning Week — a reminder to do estate planning. You should consult with and hire a qualified estate attorney to help you through the process, estate settlement requires a lot of work from the executor, so be prepared!

Newsday's recent article, titled "Estate planning: Putting affairs in order before death," lists the basic documents you will need prior to passing away.

Here they are:


  • Will
  • Letter of instruction
  • Power of attorney
  • Health care proxy
  • Trusts (These are not necessary, but some people have a revocable or irrevocable trust.)
  • A DNR or "do not resuscitate" order, which may need to be completed at each new admission to a hospital or nursing home.



  • List of bank accounts
  • List of usernames and passwords
  • List of automatic pay accounts with name and contact information of each payee
  • List of safe deposit boxes
  • 401(k) accounts, IRAs, and Roth IRAs
  • Pension documents and Annuity contracts
  • Brokerage account information
  • A list of savings bonds and copies of actual bonds
  • Life insurance policies (private and through employer)
  • Long-term care insurance policies



  • Housing, land, and cemetery deeds
  • Mortgage accounts
  • Proof of loans made
  • Vehicle titles
  • Partnership and corporate operating agreements
  • Previous three years' tax returns
  • Marriage license
  • Divorce papers
  • Military discharge information

You should also create a list of contact information: contacts on accounts, names, current addresses and Social Security numbers of all people named in your legal documents. After completing all of this, you need to inform your executor where this information is stored. After death, things get complicated, because you have to shift between grieving and doing.

The original article also says to request numerous death certificates, as some institutions want originals, not copies, and it's easier to make the request from the funeral home, instead of after from government. You should also keep track of all bills attributable to the estate, such as funeral and memorial arrangements, death notices, and other expenses. The estate can reimburse individuals for these costs.

When you are ready, meet with your estate planning attorney. He or she will advise you to gather documents and to get a date of death valuation for all accounts to which the deceased held title. If there is a surviving spouse, you should itemize what is in both the living and deceased spouse's names. Even if there are no estate taxes due, it may still be necessary to file an estate tax return.   Work with your estate planning attorney and ease the burden that all of this information gathering entails.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference: Newsday (October 29, 2014) "Estate planning: Putting affairs in order before death"




Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.