Free Estate Planning Guide and Workbook from American Red Cross

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arc_estateIf one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to create an estate plan for you and your loved ones, here’s a good starter kit. The American Red Cross has a free Estate Planning Guide and Workbook which comes in both electronic fillable PDF form or a paper workbook format if you give them your address. It is roughly 50 pages and includes blanks to store your asset and beneficiary information, make future edits when needed, and print multiple copies to share with your attorney and family members. The guide will help you to:

  • Understand estate planning and the importance of having a will.
  • Gather the information they need to prepare to draft or update your will.
  • Discover ways to minimize taxes and liabilities for your families.
  • Explore the benefits of making charitable gifts in your estate plans.

Here’s a snapshot of the Table of Contents:

  • Why Everyone Needs a Will
  • When to Revise Your Will
  • Get a Head Start on Writing or Updating Your Will
  • Three Pillars of Every Estate Plan
  • Will Planning Workbook
  • Charitable Giving Through Your Will or Other Gift Plan
  • Including the Red Cross in Your Will
  • Making a Gift Outside Your Will
  • Gifts that Benefit You and Keep the Red Cross Strong

The American Red Cross also offers another free PDF resource called Disasters and Financial Planning: A Guide for Preparedness and Recovery.

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  1. Hey Jon, thank you and American Red Cross for the guide.

    I’m not sure I’ll need it yet as I’m pretty young, but this will be helpful in educating my parents and myself to prepare for the worst.

  2. I quickly reviewed the Red Cross guide and find that it is self-serving to two groups – the Red Cross and the legal profession. It was like reading advertisement after advertisement for donating to the Red Cross. It also approaches the topic such that one would believe that you need an attorney to guide you through the estate planning mess.

    I believe the first step in estate planning should be to make sure that beneficiaries are properly specified on all assets that allow beneficiaries to be specified. In my quick review, I did not see this pointed out. If you allow these assets to pass through a will then your estate will be unnecessarily subjected to probate on such assets, with the associated costs, and executor’s and attorney’s fees. Once you have specified beneficiaries for such assets, you will find that very little will actually pass through the will. Hopefully, the remaining assets are small enough that probate will not be required. I think the Red Cross guide is a poor recommendation as a starting point for an estate plan.

    I would suggest that you go to your public library and check out the latest edition of Plan Your Estate by Denis Clifford and published by Nolo. There are probably many good books and web based resources, but I happen to like the Nolo products. Even if you are planning to use an attorney, I believe you should become familiar with the basics of estate planning before going to an attorney.

    I would also warn against filing out the workbook, unless you take proper measures to protect the information. The workbook not only has all your financial information, but it has you filing in your usernames and passwords!! I did not notice any warning in the document on the importance of protecting your information.

    For better security, you might wish to use a site like Fidsafe ( Also, I prefer the way Fidsafe has organized their Fundamentals kit. The kit will let you put basically the same information into their lists that the Red Cross workbook calls out. Fidsafe also has a secure location for passwords. However, I prefer to use a separate password database. My Money Blog has published good information on password databases you might want to read. I have not checked, but My Money Blog may have also provided information on better estate planning resources – books and websites.

    I am a My Money Blog fan. Thanks for the opportunity to share my opinion.

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