When you think about the legacy you’ll leave, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s security for your family or a positive contribution to your community. It could also be a tribute to the arts. Whatever it is, you don’t have to wait until you pass on to actualize your legacy. Now is the time to begin planning and implementing your wishes.
For maximum benefit, estate planning should happen as a team effort, with CPAs, insurance professionals, financial advisors, and attorneys working together strategically and cooperatively. When it comes to helping married couples plan, today’s strategies need to be considerably more thoughtful than in previous years. Although the estate tax exemption is ever increasing, portability is still an important option, particularly for high net worth clients.
We often think of retirement accounts as monolithic resources. It is easy to see why –we spend our working years socking away money for our future. Unfortunately, though, the rising cost of healthcare can quickly deplete even the largest of retirement funds. Because retirement accounts tend to be the largest assets in a person’s estate, it is crucial that proper planning is done to handle one’s retirement fund.
The first thing you need to do is ensure you have the assets you need to take care of yourself and your family. With the increased costs of healthcare, it is crucial you have what you need after you retire and can manage your medical expenses on a fixed income.While we would all hope for a quiet retirement, finances can be unexpectedly stressful. In addition to budgeting out a financial strategy to keep you comfortable during retirement, we can also work with your financial advisor to help you develop a strategy for distributing any leftover funds upon your death.
Retirement accounts are designed to help make the transition between working and retiring easier. They provide a steady stream of income for retirees who are suddenly without take-home pay for the first time in their lives. These accounts require extra planning and consideration since, unlike other assets your clients may have, retirement account distributions are subject to income tax for the account owner and the designated beneficiary after the owner’s death.
It is important that any plans for retirement match up with the plans a person has for their estate. Of course, planning for retirement assets is often motivated by different goals than estate planning because of income taxes. It is critical that financial advisors take the opportunity to talk with their clients about the differences when meeting for a review of their plans.
Estate planning is a complex, nuanced process. Properly done, it requires a specialized team of experts in investment, tax, and legal strategy. At its center, however, is the client and their particular needs, hopes, and goals. It’s vital that over the course of working together, you engage your client and help them gain comfort and understanding of the process. Delving into a client’s plan together is a great opportunity to interact more closely.
Be an Active Listener
As an experienced financial advisor, you may feel as if you’ve heard and seen it all. But every client is unique. Each one’s story, background, goals, hopes and fears are different, and it’s up to you to ensure you’re getting all the necessary information before proceeding with the next steps. If you’re not entering client consultations with the goal of being an active listener, you could be setting yourself up to miss critical details.
What is a personal property memorandum? It is a frequently-used estate planning document that provides an opportunity to expand upon your will or trust. Many wills or trusts simply divide the whole of an estate equally between surviving family members. But, what if you’d prefer a more detailed plan for particular items you want to leave to specific individuals?
If you’d like to ensure that specific property or items in your estate are left to certain relatives or friends, a personal property memorandum is a great option. It’s a detailed accounting of items of personal property listed with the corresponding person you’d like to receive those items.
As a financial advisor, what could be more important than the financial health of your clients?As you know, a comprehensive trust-centered estate plan allows your clients to provide for loved ones, affording them immense peace of mind. But, estate planning is not a one-time event since trust-centered estate plans require careful supervision and regular reviews to function properly. Accordingly, it’s crucial that you participate in the maintenance of your clients’ trusts by monitoring important financial changes and helping clients to update their plans to reflect these changes.
Maintaining your estate plan can feel overwhelming when faced with all the changes life can bring. Calling your attorney may not be your first instinct when you’re faced with a significant shift in income, investments, or employment, but consulting with us is a wise way to ensure your legal health is always maintained. Read on for five events that should capture your attention and prompt you to reach out to us for some personalized advice.
How to Tailor the Conversation to Their Goals
Financial advisors often have a clear path to starting the estate planning discussion when their clients have children, as many estate planning discussions center around clients’ objectives for passing their wealth, properties, and legacy to the next generation.
Because of this traditional emphasis on the next generation, individuals and couples without children can easily arrive at the conclusion that they don’t need the same level of detail in their own plans or, worse yet, that they don’t need a plan at all. Nevertheless, there are several ways to help estate planning resonate with individuals and couples who aren’t parents.
Reframe the planning conversation
You can keep these clients engaged and help them find fulfillment by shifting your message away from discussions about bettering future generations and focusing instead on ways to plan for life, the future, and a legacy. Remind them that estate planning deals with a wide range of important issues like ensuring trusted people can make decisions if the client is unable to do so because of illness, incapacity, or death, and supporting meaningful causes they care about.
Planning for flexibility and the future “what-ifs” of life is important for young, child-free clients. Working successfully with these clients involves helping them pinpoint their core motivations and goals regarding their wealth and legacy. Ask them to reflect on the following questions:
- Why are you saving and investing?
- What do you want to accomplish during your life?
- What legacy do you want to leave?
- What impact do you want to leave?
Exploring these topics helps clients without children become engaged in estate and financial planning.
Think upstream for younger clients
Rather than directing their assets toward their descendants, some clients, especially young, single, and child-free clients, may be inclined toward transferring their wealth “upstream” to their parents or grandparents.
Issues arise, however, when these plans are not optimized for the issues faced by older beneficiaries. Certain estate planning solutions can help them make a positive impact on their older loved ones’ lives in regards to Medicaid, asset protection concerns, and blended families. Clients who want to leave their wealth “upstream” must discuss their goals with an estate planner to ensure the plan will work as intended.
An emphasis on philanthropy
Charitable planning may be more prevalent for clients without children. This is especially true for older individuals who have built lifelong connections to a particular passion that they’d like to support. Talking to these clients in terms of their potential for creating a positive impact is a helpful strategy for all parties involved.
In many cases, a comprehensive plan may be a better strategy than simply naming a favorite charity as a beneficiary on an investment account. One of the biggest risks these clients face is that they often assume that a simple plan is the best, but that assumption may, sadly, limit the opportunity they have to leave an impact.
Clients rarely want their assets ending up with a distant relative or being claimed by the state, and will appreciate developing a plan that’s meaningful to them. When an individual dies without leaving a will, this is referred to as “dying intestate.” This scenario brings with it a number of complications, as the state legislature has essentially written the client’s estate plan for them. For clients without children, this is often not the estate plan they would have selected.
Different generations take different approaches to life, and your likelihood of working with more childless clients is increasing. The birthrate in the U.S. has been low for decades, but there were record low fertility rates in 2017 and 2018, as many millennial women and couples are choosing to delay or avoid parenthood.
Helping these clients define clear, personal goals for financial and estate planning is an excellent way to add value to your financial planning services and engage with this growing demographic. Let’s schedule a quick discussion to cover other ways you can build trust and increase engagement with your clients. Give us a call today.
Strategies to Enhance Your Success
Estate planning is complex and continually evolving. Often, affluent families are “early adopters” of the newest and best estate planning strategies. Luckily, by working with us, you can benefit from the same estate planning strategies that affluent families do. Here are a few techniques we should discuss soon.
1. Maintain an up-to-date, trust-centered plan
The foundation of your estate plan must achieve your goals and needs. Wealthy people tend to utilize estate plans with all assets funded into or aligned with trusts. Not only should your estate plan be trust-centered, but it should also be continually updated as your life, family circumstances, and the law grow and change. Make sure your current estate plan always reflects your goals—a tried-and-true secret of the affluent.
2. Create special trusts for special assets
Wealthy people take advantage of the legal and tax opportunities presented by unique assets or investments. Many types of assets, such as IRAs, life insurance, business ownership, and more, require specialized planning to work properly in your estate plan.
If you’ve saved for retirement, you know the value of an IRA, a 401(k) or another retirement plan. You are probably also familiar with the beneficiary designations for these plans. But, you may not be familiar with a specialized trust, called a standalone retirement trust or IRA trust. This trust lays out exact instructions about where the money in your IRA will go after you’re gone. If you’ve seen substantial accumulation in your IRA, you may not want its entirety to be disbursed to a beneficiary all at once. You’ve worked a lifetime to save, and the IRA trust empowers you to protect what you’re leaving behind.
In a similar fashion, life insurance trusts give you more control over your life insurance benefits, allowing you to direct what occurs to your life insurance policy in more detail than is possible with a plain beneficiary form. It can be risky to name your minor children as the beneficiaries of your policy. If your children are not yet adults, the insurance company often requires a court-appointed guardian to receive the funds, a potentially costly and lengthy process. Many people may decide to leave the policy benefits directly to the children’s caretaker to avoid this guardianship issue. But, leaving the policy benefits to your children’s caretaker outright doesn’t ensure that the money is used for the benefit of your children. A life insurance trust can protect what you’re leaving behind and ensure it is used for the benefit of your beneficiaries.
Unlike a plain beneficiary designation, a trust also lets you designate specific uses for your money by your beneficiaries, such as educational funding. The wealthy don’t leave these things to chance and instead use proactive trust-centered planning to achieve their goals and protect their families.
3. Build a collaborative professional team
Wealthy people rarely plan and work with professionals in isolation. They know they can get better outcomes by meshing their legal, tax, and financial plans together. Rather than silo their strategies with various advisors, they ensure their team is optimizing their results through a collaborative approach.
As you build out your team, seek out professionals who are enthusiastic about working with one another across disciplines. The more visibility they have into one another’s strategies, the better they’ll be able to provide you with the best possible benefits. Call us today. We can discuss the best ways to put these and other estate planning approaches of the wealthy into action for you.