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Learn... Plan... Protect Your Estate

Steps to Build Plan
  Step 1 - Organize documents
  Step 2 - Get educated
  Step 3 - Inventory
  Step 4 - Determine goals
  Step 5 - Develop plan
  Step 6 - Review plan
  Step 7 - Take action
  Step 8 - Get help
Estate Plan Items
  Death Will
  Power of Attorney
  Health Care Directive
  Living Will
  Charitable Giving
  Asset Distribution
  Burial Instructions
Inventory your assets

When preparing your initial estate plan, one of the first steps is to inventory your assets, essentially creating a personal balance sheet. This will help you understand your estate and, if you need to see an attorney, will save you time and money and will make your first meeting with the estate-planning attorney that much more productive.

A personal balance sheet is simply a listing of all your assets, their fair market value, and who owns them (husband, wife or both). Items to be considered include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Certificate of Deposits (CDs)
  • Money Market Accounts
  • U.S. Savings Bonds
  • Mutual Funds
  • Stocks, Bonds and Other Securities
  • 401(k), 403(b), IRAs and Other Retirement Accounts
  • Your Principal Residence
  • Other Real Estate Owned
  • Time Shares, Boats and RVs
  • Automobiles
  • Closely Held Businesses and Partnership Interests
  • Cash Value in a Life Insurance Policy
  • Variable Annuities

Now create a balance sheet similar to the sample shown below, and fill it out. For the value of each item, use your best estimate because the value of all the items may change, even dramatically, over time.

Sample Personal Balance Sheet
Joint Assets


Retirement Funds IRA:
Non-retirement funds Stocks:
Mutual Funds:
Money Market: $20,000
Life insurance $200,000 $200,000  
Totals: $400,000 $295,000 $320,000

Step Four - Determine your goals

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