How to Identify Your Assets and Liabilities in Estate Planning

By Jennifer Tucker
February 27, 2024 | 2 Min. Read

Identifying your assets and liabilities is a key step in creating an estate plan that ensures your family will be cared for and your legacy will be protected. Here’s an easy guide to help you through the process:

List Your Assets

Your assets are anything you own that you consider to be of value. Examples include:

  • Real estate. Primary residences, vacation homes, rental properties, and land.
  • Personal property. Valuable belongings such as jewelry, collectibles, and vehicles.
  • Financial accounts. Bank accounts, investment accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement savings accounts.
  • Business interests. Ownership interests or investments you hold in businesses or partnerships.

List Your Liabilities

Your liabilities are financial obligations that you owe to another party. Examples include:

  • Debts. Outstanding debts like mortgages, personal loans, credit card balances, and medical bills.
  • Tax obligations. Income taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, and inheritance taxes.
  • Legal obligations. Pending lawsuits that may impact your estate.

What assets cannot be placed in a trust?

Certain assets can’t be transferred into a trust, including:

  • IRA and 401(k) accounts
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
  • Certain insurance policies
  • Certain types of property ownership (such as joint tenancy or community property)
  • Certain government benefits (such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, which may be subject to strict eligibility requirements)

Consider consulting with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney to understand which assets can be placed in a trust and how to do so effectively to navigate potential tax and legal implications.