Crafting the Dream Estate Planning Team

Journal of Financial Planning: April 2021

 

Every year, there are articles about the lessons we can learn from the prominent celebrities who died without having done their estate planning. This year, Tony Hseih, the founder and CEO of Zappos, died in an accident at age 46, leaving no guidance as to what would happen to his more than $850 million fortune.

Regardless of whether your clients have $850 million, they need to tackle their estate planning, especially since we are still in a global pandemic. The annual survey from Caring.com found that even though there was an uptick in the number of young people ages 18 to 34 who have a will due to the COVID-19 pandemic, overall, the public still does not have estate planning documents in order.

So it’s still important to drive home the point of the importance of estate planning.

Part of that is putting together a dream estate planning team. As the financial planner, you’re the captain of the dream team. But who else is needed?

Estate planning lawyer. The first step is to ask your clients to check in with their employers to see if they have any legal benefits. Some companies offer that to help offset the cost of drafting a will and other estate planning documents.

Insurance broker. Your clients may have insurance though their work, but will it be enough to cover the mortgage, car payments, and bills, for their grieving loved ones? Ensure they have the right amount of coverage.

Clients’ families and loved ones. The most important people on the dream estate planning team are the clients’ family members. While there is a tendency to not want to talk about death and estate planning, a crucial step is to have a generational meeting to go over the information. Clients need to discuss with the people who are the medical power of attorney or financial power of attorney. If clients are so inclined, they can draft their estate planning documents with these people present, so they are aware of their duties.

AARP cautions against making these decisions based on tradition.

“Select your agents based upon their ability to manage your affairs, not birth order,” said Gary Bauer, professor emeritus at Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University in the AARP article “How to Stop Stalling on Getting a Will and Estate Plan.”

The binder. Everything should be packaged together in a binder for your clients’ loved ones for easy access. Binders should be distributed to all relevant players, especially the powers of attorney. It should include the will, health care directive, and durable power of attorney, at the very least, according to AARP.

“Having a plan in place is one small step to protect yourself and your family from otherwise uncontrollable risks,” said Patrick Hicks, head of legal at Trust & Will, Caring.com.