Do you need an estate planning financial advisor?

An estate plan is a set of documents outlining how you want your assets to be distributed upon your death or incapacity. Along with retirement planning, risk management and investments, an estate plan is a fundamental part of a comprehensive financial plan. Financial advisors help clients prepare estate plans by working with them to clarify their goals, showing them the processes for achieving them, and working with other estate planning professionals, such as lawyers. Estate planning financial advisors generally charge a flat fee and may also receive fees based on the percentage of assets you place under their management. The latter is especially common if they also manage your investment portfolio.

Consider working with a financial advisor who can help you with all of your estate, financial and retirement planning needs.

Estate planning services through a financial advisor

One of the first jobs of a financial advisor is to help a client understand their estate planning goals. For the average individual contemplating estate planning for the first time, it is not always clear which assets should be covered by a plan and how their distribution can be directed.

Advisors can help ensure that important issues are resolved, including sensitive topics that clients might be tempted to avoid. For example, clients may need to be made to think about whether they want their children or a charity to be the financial beneficiaries of their estate. Likewise, solving difficult issues such as how to support stepchildren can benefit from the help of a financial planner.

Estate planning financial advisors work alongside lawyers who specialize in estate planning. Many estate planning financial advisors are lawyers themselves. Legal expertise is invaluable when drafting the many legal documents that can be part of a comprehensive estate plan. In addition to drafting wills, drafting powers of attorney and creating trusts. Lawyers can also help estate planning clients legally avoid probate and minimize estate taxes. During the probate process, an attorney can provide legal representation.

Estate Planning Financial Advisor Costs

The basic document of an estate plan, a will, can be drawn up by a lawyer for a few hundred dollars if it is a simple estate. Lawyers can also help with other estate planning documents such as creating trusts and assigning powers of attorney a la carte for fees up to, in the case of complex trusts, thousands of dollars each.

It is often more economical to pay an estate planner a fixed fee. A complete financial plan including an estate plan can cost between $1,500 and $2,500. You can also hire an advisor to draft only the estate plan portion, but this may be less cost-effective than bundling one into a comprehensive financial plan.

In both cases, additional costs are likely. For example, the plan will likely require an annual update. The planner will charge an additional fee for doing this. If the estate planner is not an attorney, he will have to be paid more to draft the necessary legal documents. For estate planners who are lawyers, a package can be negotiated that covers the necessary documents and any additional consultation.

Property planners can instead charge by the hour. Lawyers generally charge between $150 and $350 per hour. Advisors can charge anywhere from $100 to $400 on an hourly basis. Advisors also often charge a percentage of assets under management, particularly if they also manage your investments. This is typically around 1% of the assets the advisor manages for you. For example, if the advisor manages $500,000, the annual fee would be $5,000.

Some advisors do not charge fixed fees or percentages of assets. They may be paid entirely by commissions from sellers of financial products such as mutual funds, insurance policies and annuities. Still others are compensated from a combination of fixed fees and percentages charged to clients, and commissions paid on sales of investment products.

How to get the most out of the services of a financial advisor in estate planning

To benefit from the services of a financial advisor in estate planning, do as much information as possible before contacting potential partners. Gain some understanding of wills, beneficiaries, trusts, probate and estate rights so you know what applies to your situation, what questions to ask and how to interpret the answers you get.

You can usually get a free initial consultation with an estate planner. At this meeting, discuss the services the planner will provide and their costs. Make sure the details are covered and get everything in writing.

You may consider working with an advisor who has specific credentials in estate planning. One example is the Certified Real Estate Planner (CEP), a degree offered by the National Institute of Certified Real Estate Planners. Holders of this credential receive specialized training in estate planning, including creating trusts, managing estate taxes and managing disability.

Conclusion

Estate planning financial advisors can be helpful guides for people navigating the complex process of planning how to distribute their assets after death or disability. They can help clarify goals, select appropriate documents, and draft legal documents to ensure clients’ wishes are met. Estate planner fees depend on the size and complexity of the estate and can be fixed, hourly, percentage-based, or a combination.

Advice on estate planning

  • If you’re putting an estate plan in place, consider working with a financial advisor who can help. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your matching advisors for free to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, start now.

  • As a comprehensive look at the challenges and opportunities of estate planning, SmartAsset’s Estate Planning Guide is an invaluable resource. It includes, among other things, a state-by-state breakdown of estate taxes and inheritance laws.

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