What will happen to your assets when you die? It might not be a fun question to consider, but it’s an important one, and a financial advisor who specializes in estate planning won’t let you ignore it.
“When investors think of an estate plan, they may only think of a set of legal documents,” says Marguerite Weese, COO of Emerald Family Office & Advisory and National Director of Family Legacy Strategies at WilmingtonTrust. “However, estate planning encompasses everything from accumulating and preserving wealth to spending and ultimately transferring one’s assets.”
In your estate plan, you probably have certain goals you want to achieve, she says. You may want to make sure you leave enough money for your son to pay for your granddaughter’s education or to support a charitable cause. The expertise and estate planning tools of a financial advisor can help you create an estate plan that will meet all of your goals. Here are some things to consider as you begin your search:
- What does a real estate planner do?
- How to find a financial advisor for estate planning.
- What to look for in a financial advisor for estate planning.
What does a property planner do?
An estate planner helps you create a plan for how your assets will be managed after your death, but estate planning is much more complicated than simple.
“Since investors’ lives are dynamic, their financial and estate planning goals will need to adapt over time,” says Weese. It is the job of an estate planner to ensure that your estate plan meets both your current and future needs, and to help you deal with any changes along the way, whether planned or unexpected.
“A key part of effective estate planning is to shore up your financial situation with your estate strategy,” says Benjamin Trujillo, JD, LL.M, senior counsel at the Compardo, Wienstroer, Conrad & Janes (CWCJ) office at Moneta. “Involving an advisor when estate planning is initially considered is paramount to considering all potential strategies and the implications of each, and much more likely to produce a successful outcome. »
Richard Ricciardi, a partner at Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, who holds an LLM in estate planning and elder law, believes a financial adviser should do more than just sell or manage investments. The advisor should also be able to explain how the various options for long-term care and life and health insurance fit into your overall plan.
“These investment vehicles can be important to a person’s financial stability in the future and bolster a plan against the risk of catastrophic loss,” Ricciardi said.
How to Find a Financial Advisor for Estate Planning
The natural place to start looking for a financial advisor to help with estate planning is online. Google and sites like the US News & World Report financial advisor search tool can help you identify local advisors, but the results can quickly become overwhelming. For this reason, Weese suggests starting your search by asking for recommendations instead.
“Ask friends and family who are in the same situation that they use,” she says. Similarly located is the key here. She says to ask people whose current financial situation best reflects yours for the most appropriate referrals.
For example, if you’re a doctor who owns your own practice, asking for referrals from other doctors gives you the best chance of finding an advisor who understands your unique situation, she says.
“Having a personal reference can be a great way to start because some level of checking has already taken place and there is an opportunity for a warm introduction,” adds Weese.
You can also ask for recommendations from other professionals you work with. Your accountant or lawyer might be a good source of referrals. “It’s helpful because these counselors have their own network of professionals that they meet with regularly,” Weese says. “It can be beneficial for your advisors to collaborate with each other because you want to have a comprehensive plan where all of your advisors are aligned and communicating to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.”
Don’t settle for the first advisor recommendation given to you. While referrals can be a great place to start, you still need to do your due diligence to make sure the advisor is the right fit for you. Weese suggests preparing a list of questions to ask, such as:
- How many clients does the advisor have?
- What is the financial profile of the advisor’s typical client?
- What tools are available to the advisor to help achieve your estate and financial planning goals?
What to Look for in a Financial Advisor for Estate Planning
You should interview several advisors before choosing someone to work with you. “When looking for an estate planner, I would suggest an attorney who specializes in wills, trusts, and estates, and makes that their primary practice,” says Ricciardi.
You can identify the expertise of an advisor by the diplomas and titles he holds. For example, the Accredited Estate Planner, or AEP, designation provided by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC) is an advanced level credential for professionals who specialize in estate planning. Other estate planning designations include Chartered Trust and Estate Planner (CTEP) and Certified Trust and Trustee Advisor (CTFA).
Look at which organizations the advisor is affiliated with and whether they publish thought leadership articles or speak at professional conferences on estate planning, Weese says. “It can be an indicator that they keep up to date with the latest trends in estate planning and are respected in their field.”
“The estate planner should be able to clearly explain the differences between wills and trusts and the need for other documents, which help plan for incapacity or death,” Ricciardi said.
He says clients often come to his office with estate plans that are too complicated for the client’s situation and difficult to understand. If an advisor can’t explain every element of your estate plan in easy-to-understand terms and determine why it’s necessary, seek another advisor.
Trujillo says to seek out a financial advisor who takes a holistic approach to your situation. “Try to identify someone who has experience in estate planning or who works with lawyers regularly,” he says. “Estate planning should be discussed with the same importance as your investments, because building up your wealth is as important as protecting it so that it reaches the people and organizations you want, and is not lost in taxes avoidable or poorly spent by the heirs.”