I’ll bet most people look forward to meeting with their attorney about as much as they look forward to a root canal.
Working with an estate attorney is often one of the first – and sometimes only – legal relationships many families experience. And it can be a daunting experience to build effective estate planning strategies. However the truth is, just meeting with an estate attorney is not enough to protect your legacy.
Case in point: a recent client thought he had done everything right when it came to estate planning. He had a will and a revocable trust that held the majority of his assets. He thought he had it all covered. However, imagine his shock when the client heard the bad news: he was recently married and if he were to pass away today, his wife would inherit next to nothing.
How could something major like that slip through the cracks?
I share this to make the point about the value of including your financial advisor in your estate planning process. By doing so, you can potentially save some money in the process – and avoid some potentially big mistakes in implementation.
Here are some specific areas where your financial advisor can help bring your estate planning strategies and efforts to the next level:
Help You Find a Qualified Attorney
You should expect your financial advisor to know you on a deeper level than your attorney. You should trust him or her with your goals and desires for your money, your worries, and your family. That’s part of their work and they devote a considerable amount of time while working with you to understand your life and goals.
So while you’d likely be well-served by any of the attorneys on the Washingtonian’s Best Estate Attorneys List, your financial advisor can play matchmaker to find you an attorney that is a good fit based on their knowledge of your financial and personal goals. When that relationship is combined with years of experience working with attorneys in the past, your advisor likely has a good idea of which attorney may be a good fit for you and your estate planning strategies.
Help You Plan for Your Estate Attorney Meeting
One of the most common concerns most people have engaging an attorney is a lack of understanding or knowledge of the cost of those meetings. The truth is that most attorneys bill on an hourly basis, which means you should do some homework up front to help make the engagement as efficient as possible.
Your financial advisor can walk you through exactly how to prepare for your meeting to minimize the time and cost involved.
For example, even before you meet with an attorney you should line up information ahead of time including a net worth statement and a list of account beneficiaries and heirs. You should also choose individuals who will fulfill important roles, like serve as the guardian for your children, the executor of your estate, and possible trustees or powers of attorney. If you can make some of these decisions in advance, the whole estate planning process will likely be faster, simpler, and less costly.
Explain and Clarify The Plan
After meeting with your attorney, he or she will likely send you home with a binder of drafted documents that you need to review before deciding to sign them. This is quite a homework assignment and it can be mentally (and physically) draining.
That’s why it makes sense to walk through these documents with your financial advisor as a way to lighten your burden. He or she can help you understand the strategies behind those documents and make sure everything is drafted according to your wishes. And the good news is that unlike attorneys, most financial advisors don’t bill hourly!
Develop Your Estate Planning Strategies As A Team
Advanced estate-planning strategies with complicated acronyms like “GRATs,” “ILITs,” or “QPRTs” often require your attorney, financial advisors, and tax professionals to work together. So it can be beneficial in some cases for your professional advisors to meet together and brainstorm strategies on your behalf.
Everyone’s unique circumstances demand special provisions in your estate planning documents – which is why teamwork is essential from your advisors. For example, if you have a parent going into a long-term care facility, a grandchild with special needs, charitable intentions for assets, or concerns about how your family handles money, all of those details can and should be considered in your estate plan. It’s important that you review these situations with your attorney as well as your financial advisor to suggest and discuss strategies that make sense for your financial well-being today and in the future.
Hold You Accountable
Even people who receive plenty of legal advice still manage to botch their estate plan by failing to execute on that advice. It’s not surprising that clients will often meet with an attorney and never go any further due to the complexities, costs, and tough decisions involved. That’s why diligent follow-up is often necessary during implementation to make sure your plan is executed smoothly.
Those billable hours won’t help if you don’t title your accounts correctly, update beneficiaries, and follow through on implementing the details of your estate documents. Do any of this wrong and the effects can be devastating for your finances and family.
The trouble is that clients are often too busy with their families and professional lives to handle the particulars. This is where your financial advisor comes in. They can help update accounts, review beneficiaries for retirement accounts and life insurance, and prompt you to update your plan when the legal environment changes or you have major life events such as a marriage, death, or birth.
The point is that the complexity of estate planning can be a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Your advisor can help preview what’s coming, simplify the process, aid in implementation, and potentially save you some money in legal fees.
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