How should we approach Estate Planning?
The way I perceive Estate Planning is to decide ahead of time while I am relatively young with a clear mind as to how my assets are to be distributed after my passing – to whom and how much will I leave, with or without a condition.
Estate Planning process (in my opinion):
- Identify all my assets with the account
- Sit down with an experienced attorney in the state where I reside and decide who the Executor/Executrix and the Guardian(s) will
- Decide who will be the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to prepare/file the Estate (and/or Trust)
- Identify the Financial Advisor on my brokerage and retirement
Before the passing:
The roles of the professionals involved:
- Estate Planning attorney – to recommend the strategy (and “product”) and draft the necessary legal
- CPA – to prepare returns and keep track of the assets transferred into a Trust, income received or generated from the assets, and applicable expenses,
- Financial Advisor – to assist in selecting which investment vehicles to be most suitable.
After the passing:
- The Executor/Executrix will work with the attorney to probate the assets if necessary, notify the beneficiary (beneficiaries), work with a CPA to obtain tax ID for Trust and/or Estate, and then work with Financial Advisor to change the title(s) of financial account(s).
- The Executor/Executrix will also work with a CPA to account for the asset, income and expenses within the Estate/Trust and present beneficiary financial statements periodically or upon request.
Finding the most suitable investment vehicles is a challenging if not a daunting task. The investment strategy is to align with my wishes.
Assuming I predecease my minor child, I would like the assets to grow and provide an annual income to support her living expenses until she can support herself. Hence, the investment options should be narrowed down to stocks or mutual funds that would generate healthy dividends while participating in the market growth in general to at least combat the inflation rate.
If my passing occurs after my child is grown, my goal will most likely shift to protect her, for example, from an unsuccessful marriage. I would like to pass on what I earn over my lifetime to my child, her child(ren) and any charities I am passionate about.
If my child takes over my business and I still feel strongly about leaving a good portion of my money to charities then another approach would be to possibly change the beneficiary designation of my life insurance policy to charities or add them as one of the beneficiaries.
When I am too old and the life insurance cost prohibits me from getting more coverage, investing some money in an annuity contract might not be a bad idea since annuity offers a death benefit.
The financial advisor’s role and experience are important to help compare various annuities contracts and, life insurance policies in addition to recommending stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
As my child grows up and my business expands, a periodic review of my Estate Plan is in the cards and any preset legal documents might require revisions.
A quick summary: An attorney and a CPA can figure out the best estate and income tax efficient way of setting up your estate plan, and a CPA can help to get all tax related matters in order, while a Financial Advisor can lay out the possible investment choices for you or your Executor/Executrix or Trustee to decide.
I am here to help as a CPA and Financial Advisor and would be delighted to recommend the Estate Planning Attorney(s) whom I have worked with over the years. Usually I will help organize and list all my clients’ assets by preparing financial statements and help respond to the questionnaire request by the attorney. This way, the attorney will clock less time on your planning.
Further, I will even sit down at the Estate Planning meeting to help facilitate the communication between my clients and the attorney upon request – “one stop shopping” is what I aim for – to service my clients in all of their financial needs.
Life is too short, and it is never too late to start planning!