In 2019 I wrote an article with the title “What role does your financial advisor play in estate planning process?” Now I would like to revisit this topic given that Coronavirus pandemic has brought estate planning front and center to the minds of many people old and young.
In the past, when the words “estate planning” came up, most people would conjure up an image of an old, super wealthy man, pondering plans about who will get his enormous amount of fortune after he is gone. There are a couple of inaccuracies with this image. First of all, estate planning is not only about dealing with one’s monetary assets. Second, estate planning is critical and beneficial not just for older people.
So, what is estate planning? It involves using wills, trusts, insurance policies, and other legal documents to give instructions on what happens to your personal property, your tax, care of your young children and/or pets, and if any, your health care arrangements and final arrangements upon your death, etc.
Then, what role does a financial advisor play in her client’s estate planning process?
- A financial advisor can help clients create plans that truly reflect their values, goals, and wishes with consideration of their overall financial situations.
Experienced financial advisors know that having estate planning documents do not always mean that a person’s estate planning goals are accomplished. Does the plan achieve what one wants to leave behind? A financial advisor knows a client and his/her family well and will take consideration of client’s overall situation in clarifying and prioritizing client’s goals and objectives before wills and trusts are drafted.
- A financial advisor helps ensure continued success of client’s estate plan.
Estate planning is a dynamic process. Estate planning does not end after a client sign the estate planning documents. A financial advisor helps clients identify proper assets to fund their estate plan, designate and update beneficiary, review their situations annually and work closely with attorneys to update any changes in client’s family situations in the estate planning documents.
- A financial advisor can reduce client’s mistakes and save them costs by increasing the chance that client’s estate plan will be carried out successfully.
An estate plan is not successful if client’s estate plan is not carried out as intended. Working with attorneys, a financial advisor can help ensure client’s assets are transferred properly by avoiding mistakes and minimizing administrative costs at death. Also, in some cases an advisor can help client’s intended beneficiaries locate and account for the assets they previously might not know of.
It is probably true that nobody wants to talk about his or her own death. But, let’s be honest, by avoiding and delaying this important planning, one simply does disservice to their loved ones. The pandemic taught us some valuable lessons. So, stop delay and start planning.