As a Financial Advisor, one of the many roles I play is “professional nag.” The thought of working through (and paying for) a comprehensive estate plan isn’t high on many individual’s lists of priorities. Still, I feel that proper estate planning is a fundamental aspect of any financial plan and is something I continuously revisit with my clients.
Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney to create an estate plan can be a critical step to ensure your financial intentions are adhered to when you are no longer living. Planning now means you are the ultimate decision-maker for your financials in the future!
I can honestly say I’ve seen it all in working on estate plans with clients and their attorneys. Married couples have come to Birchwood with complex estate plans, which cost thousands of dollars to put together. While these estate plans may cover virtually every aspect of a family’s unique situation, the effectiveness hinges on the actual implementation of the Estate Planning Attorney’s recommendations. If no action is was taken, the estate plan may be meaningless.
Ensure You Haven’t Overlooked Any Part of Your Estate Plan
An often-overlooked aspect of estate planning is that account ownership/titling, and beneficiary designations may need to be adjusted. Consider some of these real-life examples of how we, as Financial Advisors, have worked with Estate Planning Attorneys to ensure an estate plan is executed appropriately.
Did you realize that your retirement plan and life insurance beneficiary designations will trump whatever you outlined in your Will? Consider how devastating it could be if you were to spend thousands of dollars on an estate plan only to forget to update your beneficiary designations. It happens more often than you’d think. Our role as Financial Advisors is to help you continuously review your beneficiaries, and titling will achieve the goals and desires you set in your plan.
Account & Ownership Titling
Perhaps you did your estate planning, and your attorney recommended the use of Revocable Living Trusts. There may be several reasons why Trust planning was recommended, but if assets aren’t retitled into the name of the Trust, it could all be for nothing.
Generally speaking, if Trust planning is recommended, the follow-up action is re-titling all non-retirement assets (i.e., brokerage accounts, checking & savings accounts, real estate, vacation homes, etc.) into the name of the Trust(s). You went through the hard part of creating the Trust(s), now you have to see the implementation through to fruition by re-titling and/or shifting the ownership of assets.
Estate planning is never a one-and-done solution. Laws and individual circumstances change over time, and as such, we encourage clients to remain flexible in their estate planning approach. Proper estate planning for a couple in their mid-30’s may hinge primarily on making sure their children will be adequately cared for in the event of premature death. Planning for the same couple when they’re in their mid-50’s may look quite different as they’ve likely accumulated considerably more wealth, and now their children are launched and independent.
If nothing else, consider reviewing your estate plan since it’s probably been several years since you’ve taken a look. Compare what your estate plan says will happen to what your account titling and beneficiary designations look like today. Are there any inconsistencies? If so, your team consisting of the Financial Advisor and Estate Planning Attorney should probably be brought back into the huddle together so you can ensure your plan is headed in the right direction.
As CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professionals, Birchwood advisors work alongside our clients and their Estate Planning Attorneys to ensure the implementation of an estate plan has taken place. We then revisit estate planning as a continuous piece of your financial planning puzzle and make updates when necessary.