A Checklist to Help You Get Started

It is important to review your estate plans regularly to ensure they still accomplish what you want them to, and to make sure they reflect life’s changes. Events like births, marriages, even new tax laws, should all trigger a review of your estate plans.

This year, make reviewing (and updating) your plans one of your new year’s resolutions. Our checklist can help you get started.

  • Review Your Will. Check for any changes that may need to be made because of a change in your life or because you want to add a charitable gift to organizations you care about, such as Northwestern, in your plans.
  • Confirm Your Executor. Make sure the person named is still the qualified individual you want to manage your estate, resolve claims, and distribute the designated portions of your estate to your chosen beneficiaries.
  • Update Guardians. Make sure you are still comfortable with the guardian named in your will for those under your care. If your dependents were minor children that are grown now, does a guardian still need to be listed?
  • Review Your Beneficiaries. Make sure the beneficiaries you have designated for your insurance and retirement plans are up to date. Once you have named someone a beneficiary, let them know so they can claim the proceeds.
  • Check Your Power of Attorney. Make sure your durable powers of attorney for financial and health care are current. Provide a copy of your financial power of attorney to the named person. Your health care power of attorney will need a copy, along with your health care provider.

Need Help?

If you have questions about your estate plan, or are interested in including a gift to support Northwestern in your plans, please contact Northwestern Gift Planning at giftplanning@northwestern.edu or 800-826-6709. We are happy to help.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Northwestern a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Northwestern, a nonprofit corporation currently located at 633 Clark Street, Evanston, Illinois 60208, or its successor thereto, ______________ [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Northwestern or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property, or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Northwestern as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Northwestern as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Northwestern where you agree to make a gift to Northwestern and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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