13 Smart Estate Planning Moves

Follow this estate planning checklist for you (and your heirs) to hold on to more of your hard-earned money.

Estate plan file in a filing cabinet.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Several years ago, Kelley Brooks’s husband, Chris, who was being treated for hypertension, died in his sleep. Like so many other couples in their 40s, they had talked about estate planning but never got around to it. “You think you have forever to do all that, but you don’t,” says Brooks of Bellingham, Mass.

Experts hear similar stories all the time. “People often underestimate how much it will cost if they don’t plan,” says Renee Fry, founder of Gentreo, an online estate-planning company. For people nearly or newly retired, who potentially still have decades ahead for their assets to compound and grow, estate taxes are a huge concern.

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Janet Kidd Stewart
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Retirement Report

Janet Kidd Stewart created The Journey, a nationally syndicated personal finance column that ran for more than a decade in dozens of U.S. newspapers. As a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, she covered banking, derivatives, markets and economics. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Widowed suddenly in 2013, she joined online grief groups and began talking with other widows about survivor benefits and adjusting to a new financial reality. Now living and working in Minneapolis, she is compiling those stories, and her own, into a forthcoming book.

With contributions from