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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Cremé

Estate Planning Financial Advisors: Why You Need One

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

person writing estate planning with 4 tips

Many people ponder about Estate Planning Financial Advisors and why you need one and the main question is which should come first, your financial plan or your estate plan? A financial plan is very important to make sure you are on a course to be able to reach your goals, however, without the backbone of an integrated estate plan, your legacy could be in jeopardy.

Table of Contents Why is Estate Planning Important?

How can a Financial Advisor Help with Estate Planning?

Asset Inventory

Your Financial Needs

Appointing Beneficiaries

Taking Care of Your Family’s Needs

Communicating your Estate with your Family

What to Look for When What to Look for When Finding a Financial Advisor

Why is Estate Planning Important?

Estate planning is important and vital to anyone hoping to pass on a maximized legacy. By putting together an estate plan, you are accounting for the contingencies and the what-ifs of life. What will happen to your belongings, accounts, and insurance payouts if something happened and you or a loved one passes away? The same question applies if someone is still alive but no longer able to make decisions for themselves. A simple solution may be that everything is divided equally and paid to the children, but what if a child isn’t over age 18, has a mental handicap, or hasn’t proved themselves to be wise with money in the past? By thinking through these kinds of situations and questions, you can often put plans in place now to circumvent potential issues and unwanted consequences.

How Can a Financial Advisor Help with Estate Planning?

A good financial advisor should be asking the right questions to understand their client’s wishes. These may include:

● If you passed away, who would you like to inherit your accounts?

● If a married couple passed away simultaneously, then what?

● Do you have an asset inventory of all your accounts and who is the stated beneficiary?

● If you become incapacitated, what would happen?

● If someone passed away, do you have enough assets and insurance to cover your financial needs?

● Who would you like to be involved in taking care of your family’s needs?

By starting with questions, estate planning financial advisors are able to help uncover your desires first, and then recommend ways for implementing solutions.

Some of those solutions may be as simple as setting up beneficiaries accurately on investment accounts, designating account powers of attorney, and getting proper transfer on death or payable on death designations in place on things like houses, vehicles, and bank accounts.

There may be suggestions on insurance coverage to do the heavy lifting financially when someone doesn’t have the assets to self-insure in the event of something happening. Some of these policies can be life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance. It may be a policy covered through an employer, a personal policy, or perhaps a hybrid insurance policy.

There are other suggestions that estate planning financial advisors may suggest by utilizing a legal source such as an attorney. Some of these could be a last will and testament, durable power of attorney, declaration of guardianship, HIPAA release forms, advanced directive, medical power of attorney, and the various kinds of trusts including living trusts, irrevocable trusts, testamentary trusts, and special needs trusts just to name a few.

Last Will and Testament –states where you want your belongings to go after death and who is to be in charge. It has to be brought before the state court after you die in a process known as probate. Items that have beneficiaries directly listed or are in a trust are not subject to probate. It is also worth noting that probate in some states such as Texas require a licensed attorney to go before the court so you can’t do it yourself if your estate is too large for the simple process.

Durable Power of Attorney –allows someone to give authority to another person in managing their financial affairs. The exact extent of what that authority is can be specified in the document. There are immediate and springing powers of attorney, where one is able to go into place now, while the other springs into action once the owner becomes incapacitated. It is possible to have account specific limitations, however, the individual signing and giving the power has to be mentally competent for an attorney and/or notary to approve the document.

Declaration of Guardianship –designates who would be the caretaker if the adult signing were incapacitated. There is also a declaration of guardianship for minors that can be a separate form depending on the state.

HIPAA Release Form –allows a designated person to receive personal medical information. This can be especially important for parents when students turn 18.

Advanced Directive – designates end of life care desired.

Medical Power of Attorney – designates who can oversee medical decisions when incapacitated and unable to make the decisions oneself.

Trusts – a legal document to hold assets and designate who can control and use those assets under specific circumstances.

Overall, there are many tools estate planning financial advisors can use, and some of them are implemented through an attorney while others can be enacted by a financial planner.

Communicating Your Estate Plan with Your Family

The most important thing no matter which end of the planning starts, understanding and communicating your estate plan with your family will be paramount to getting it in place and enacted when the time comes. A well-thought-out will that specifies who receives what won’t be carried out if no one can find the will when the time comes.

What to Look for When Finding a Financial Advisor

At the end of the day, there are two things to look for when finding an estate planning financial advisor. 1) Do they ask the big important questions? - are they concerned with getting to the root of your wishes, or are they more focused solely on investment performance?

2) Can they facilitate introductions with local attorneys to work with? Estate planning financial advisors will have a considerable amount of overlap with attorneys due to their focus on asking the big questions so make sure to find out how many clients they’ve collaborated on together. By working with estate planning financial advisors, you can have confidence the big picture will be integrated into your plan.

Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Andrew Cremé and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

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