Why You Need More Than Just an Estate Planning Attorney
No one looks forward to estate planning. It’s one of those items on the checklist that starts at the bottom and can stay there for years—for that “someday” when you have time. And yet, when it’s done right, a good estate planning solution is likely to bring you much more enduring peace of mind and well-being than many of the other things you’ve marked off that list.
Whether you’re just starting out planning your estate or you’re updating an existing trust, most of us have the same goals:
- to know that your estate planning solutions are in competent hands;
- to ensure the estate will be settled quickly when the time comes;
- to minimize administrative costs that reduce the inheritance; and perhaps most importantly,
- to avoid conflict over distribution of assets and management of the process.
Dream team: estate planning attorney and other pros
Finding a good estate planning attorney is often the expected first step, and not an easy one, since you want someone you can trust who is accessible, strategic and responsive. But in fact, the legal aspect of creating a trust is only a portion of what you should be considering. What’s at stake, after all? Money and other assets. And who do you trust with your money? If your answer was a financial consultant, wealth manager or investment advisor, then you’re on the right path. It takes the combination of legal and financial expertise to make sure that all elements of the estate are covered.
Ideal plans include well-rounded estate planning solutions
The best solution is a team that holds legal, accounting and advanced business degrees, which may include a Chartered Financial Analyst, Certified Trust and Financial Advisor, Certified Financial Planner and Certified Public Accountant. Here are four reasons why:
1) Legal concerns are only the beginning of estate planning solutions. In death, as in life, there are always taxes. Even with the best planning, taxes are an inevitable gauntlet trustees must pass through, including not just estate taxes, but also income tax and generation-skipping transfer tax laws. In addition to taxes, administering a trust often involves federal securities laws, principal and income accounting principles, and real estate, business, insurance and other concerns. Even the most adept estate lawyer will be challenged to manage all of that alone. And it’s not a lawyer’s job to warn you about tax implications of your estate, which is why estate taxes are often one of the most unwelcome surprises for family members.
2) Bureaucracy is another unavoidable aspect of all tax and real estate transactions. With all the paperwork and judicial processes, settling an estate can take years, even with a trust in place. Transparent and accurate bookkeeping is critical during this time, as trustees must keep documentation of expenditures for the trust beneficiaries. It saves significant time, money, frustration and further legal issues in the end when a certified accountant works in partnership with the estate planning attorneys on your team.
3) A trust portfolio should be increasing your family’s wealth while you are alive as well as during the settlement of the estate. And of course, your portfolio should be constructed and managed according to your particular investment objectives and risk tolerance. A Certified Financial Planner or dedicated client advisor can weave together all of the investments and aspects of your life in concert with an estate planning attorney to ensure your assets will meet the goals for your estate.
4) Estate management is one of the most stressful elements in a person’s life, and it’s not unusual to see family members buckle under the weight of it, particularly when they are grieving from the loss of a loved one. Why not make sure your family has the best resources and expertise possible during this challenging time, and has someone on their side throughout the difficult process? An individual estate planning attorney will rarely step out of their role to address your personal concerns during this time, nor should they, as their mission is to execute legal issues in the most efficient way to save you money on their billable hours. But with a team looking out for you and your family, you will have not only an attorney but also a portfolio manager, a client advisor and an advisor assistant who can respond to whatever you need, when you need it. This team will act objectively, mitigate any conflicts among family members and ensure ethical decisions are made in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries.
The truth is that this seemingly simple item on the checklist—estate planning—can quickly grow complex. A misstep in any aspect of the estate settlement process—legal, financial, administrative or interpersonal—can lead to disputes, missed deadlines, delays and unexpected costs and complications. The good news, though, is that all you have to do is find a team you trust and leave it to them to navigate the maze of estate planning and settlement for you, according to your wishes. Your family will thank you, and you will ensure peace of mind and well-being both for yourself right now and for your beneficiaries, in perpetuity.