In order for Estate Planning to be done properly, a team approach is best. As an Estate Planning attorney, I always ask my clients who their financial planner is and I attempt to connect with the financial planner if my clients will allow. At a minimum, I ask to review the beneficiary designations on their documents. Below are 4 areas that I often find to be issues that we need to work through with Financial Planners. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but is meant to highlight the importance of good communication between attorneys and other professionals serving the same client.
4 Things Estate Planning Attorneys Wish Financial Planners Knew:
1. Estate Planning Attorneys want to communicate with you.
Our clients are relying on us both to make sure their estate is passed on to their beneficiaries. It is important to our clients to know we are on the same page. Some of my best client meetings involve their financial planner.
2. Beneficiary choices are key.
A person may have done a fabulous job of investing and storing up assets for their family, but still miss the mark by listing a beneficiary incorrectly. For instance, John has two children age 9 and 11. John knows that his sister Jane will be the best person to care for them. John appoints Jane as their Guardian in a will and lists Jane as the beneficiary on the Life Insurance Policy. John passes away and Jane receives the money. While she has every intention of using the money for the children, she unfortunately passes away. The money is now part of Jane’s estate and passes to her heirs or beneficiaries under her will. John’s kids lose out. A better way to handle this is to create a testamentary trust for the kids in John’s will and name that trust as the beneficiary of the financial products.
3. There is no magic dollar figure that requires trust planning.
Every person and family is unique. Trusts can be effective for families with very little, while will based planning can still be effective for those with larger estates. It is ok to tell your client that they might consider a Living Revocable Trust and they should consult an attorney. However, please do not tell them to go have an attorney draft one. This is a conversation that the attorney and client should discuss and then determine what is right for them. I have had clients that have no need for a trust but demanded it because that is what their financial planner said they needed. This is one example of why it is important for both professionals to be on the same page.
4. Your client trusts your recommendations.
Your client trusts your recommendation and your reputation is further shaped by the recommendation you make. Sometimes we have to wait many years before the plan we create is used. Other times, they are used very quickly. In the past 30 days, 4 of my estate planning clients have passed away and the plans have been implemented. When these plans are used, there is no escaping that it is their worst time in our client’s life. Whether you are recommending a financial product or another professional, keep in mind your recommendation matters.