The role of the financial advisor is continuously evolving. With more advisors adopting the comprehensive holistic wealth approach, there’s an increasing number who are engaging in conversations involving estate planning. However, estate planning isn’t just another transaction.
It’s not simply the act of developing a plan and setting it on the shelf to be followed when needed. It’s an opportunity to engage on a deeper level while fostering relationships with your clients, their successors and other third parties.
How can advisors proactively incorporate the estate planning process within their practice to bring additional value to their client relationships? Start with these actionable tips:
- Obtain copies of clients’ estate planning documents: Review and document dates and key people, ensuring that you have an understanding of the flow of assets as well as any other client wishes worth noting.
- Ensure accounts are set up properly and ownership of property: Review applicable documents such as the Certification of Trust and Funding Instructions, verifying beneficiaries and any specific transfer instructions. Review county accessor sites (or the deed) to verify residential property ownership. One may find a reference to a trust they didn’t know existed or find property ownership may need to be updated, i.e., rental properties.
- Add estate planning to the meeting agenda: Approach the conversation at least once a year; suggest review of documents older than five years. Review clients’ Net Worth Statements, confirming ownership of all accounts and properties, and verify beneficiaries. Inquire if there are any changes within the last year or anticipated changes that would warrant a review of their estate plan documents.
- Foster a working relationship with an estate planning attorney, CPA and other certified legal document preparers as appropriate: Instill client confidence with first name-basis working relationships as part of their estate planning team. For clients that have an attorney, offer to introduce yourself and request documents if needed to show the desire of a team approach for the benefit of the client.
Ideally, clients should perceive the advisor and their practice as another resource for their estate planning needs and conversations. Consider the events over the course of your client’s lifetime that could have an impact on or involve one’s estate plan: marriage, birth, divorce, incapacitation, terminal illness or death.
Let’s not forget changes to tax laws, job transitions, inheritance or clients faced with the responsibility of being an executor over another person’s estate.
As an advisor, consider the value you will bring to your clients and the depth of the relationships you can create by being involved in conversations regarding these matters and more.
fpPathfinder provides several resources for advisors as they consider their clients’ estate planning needs or are faced with the previously mentioned life events. Here are just a few:
- 2021 – What Issues Should I Consider When Reviewing My Estate Planning Documents?
- 2021 – What Issues Should I Consider Before I Update My Estate Plan?
- 2021 – What Issues Should I Consider Before Closing the Estate?
As Dynamic continues to keep advisors apprised of practice development tools and tips for best practices, we invite you to share the tools you can’t live without in your practice, or areas you would like addressed by contacting Whitney Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Glen Carstens-Peters, Unsplash