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Not Just a Bunch of Legal Documents

Estate planning is not simply the documents prepared by an attorney, nor is it the insurance and financial plan recommended by a financial advisor. Properly done, estate planning encompasses at least the legal and financial elements, but it may include more, as estate planning often points out the need to plan in other areas.

These other areas often include planning for asset protection for the client’s lifetime and for the heirs; retirement; providing for a surviving spouse in the event of disability and/or death; providing for a parent or a child with special needs; long-term health care costs; estate taxes; and/or a business succession plan at retirement, disability and/or death.

To meet a client’s needs and goals, it may be necessary to grow a business, increase or adjust insurance, and manage investments in a certain way. No one professional has all the answers; a team of qualified advisors, however, can provide the diverse skills and experience that are necessary for the best result. Instead of consulting with various professionals at different times and stages in the planning (often getting different opinions from each one), many people find they benefit from having a team of advisors involved in the process from the beginning. The team approach also minimizes time and costs and, with everyone involved from planning through implementation, the advisors can work together and hold each other accountable.

An advisory team will likely include the estate planning attorney; accountant/CPA; insurance agent/broker; investment advisor; and possibly a professional trustee. For business owners, a business attorney and valuation expert will probably be needed, as well as a business broker if the plan calls for the business to be sold at some point. Other advisors may also be included, depending on specific circumstances and needs.

Several meetings are usually needed. The advisory team will first meet with the client to help identify goals and set priorities. At this stage, the advisors should be asking more questions than providing answers. Usually the advisors will then meet without the client to discuss how best to meet these goals, bringing their areas of expertise into the planning as they consider various legal and financial solutions. Then the team will present its recommended plan to the client and, once approved, will begin to implement the plan. From time to time, the team will meet to monitor the progress and make any needed revisions as needs and goals change.

Involving family members will acquaint them with the members of the advisory team, help them to understand what is being done and why, and avoid confusion and distrust later. An advisory team can also provide continuity if planning provides for minor children and/or grandchildren, those with special needs and even for generations to come.

If the advisory team approach interests you, please contact our office. We will be happy to discuss our process with you.

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