How a Financial Advisor Can Help You With Estate Planning

How a Financial Advisor Can Help You With Estate Planning

Many people think estate planning involves a lawyer more than a financial advisor. Estate planning, after all, concerns what happens should you become incapacitated or die. It’s the province of powers of attorney and wills. 

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However, working with a Libertyville financial advisor can help you immeasurably with estate planning. Here’s how: 

Making sure you have an estate plan 

You may have a financial plan, but not an estate plan specifically. Financial planning generally reviews your cash flow, investments, retirement funds, education funding and risk management, such as making sure you have sufficient insurance for your assets. 

People living in Libertyville, IL and elsewhere, with assets, may want to consider an estate plan as part of their financial plan. An estate plan is a plan for what they want done with those assets should they die or become incapacitated. 

The average family often dreads crafting their estate plan because you have to contemplate their own mortality to do so. However, if you have the help of a financial advisor, he or she can present it as just part of an organized financial plan. 

The following are the basic elements of any estate plan: 

A Will 

If you don’t leave a will, your spouse and other potential beneficiaries could be left high and dry for a period of time. Your assets may not be available to them (unless you and your spouse have joint assets), even to pay bills, until the will has gone through probate. 

Probate is often required upon a death, but it can be comparatively short if you have a will and have named an executor. It’s essentially a process of proving the will valid, paying any debts and taxes, appraising the property and distributing to appropriate heirs. 

But if you don’t have a will and haven’t named an executor, a probate judge will likely supervise the process. The process could end up being very lengthy and costly (court fees can really add up – so, in recommending this exercise, your financial advisor is looking out for your financial interests!) Most importantly, it’s possible that your own wishes will not determine who gets your assets. If you want friends, family members or charitable organizations to receive your assets, you need to specify your wishes in a will. 

Financial Power of Attorney 

A financial power of attorney grants a designated person the authority to handle your financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated or too ill to handle them. The person can, for instance, pay your bills while you’re in the hospital and unable to do so. 

Medical Power of Attorney 

A medical power of attorney grants a designated person the authority to handle your medical affairs in the event you become incapacitated or too ill to handle them. The designee will make decisions on your healthcare, including whether or not extraordinary measures taken to save you, any orders to resuscitate or not to resuscitate and ongoing management of your healthcare. 

 

Providing advice on the financial consequences of your decisions 

Working with an attorney could be transactional for you. You see them one time, perhaps to have a will drawn up. 

A financial advisor, on the other hand, works with you to achieve your financial goals on an ongoing basis. You should receive communications monthly, quarterly and yearly. Because they are working with you on an ongoing basis, they may be in a better position to advise you about the financial consequences of your decisions. This advice can also be given by an accountant, of course. But a financial advisor has a more thorough overview of your financial situation and your wishes and may think to give this advice when an accountant may not.

 

Making sure that you update your estate plan periodically 

Because a financial advisor is working with you steadily over time, they may be more proactive in making sure that you update your estate plan periodically. 

Everyone with a will could benefit from reviewing its provisions and beneficiaries periodically. Major life events can trigger changes that you want to make in a will. If you divorce and remarry, for example, you may want your new spouse to be your primary beneficiary, rather than a former spouse or your children. 

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to do it. It’s even more common to neglect less obvious changes. Does your new spouse have children, for example? Would you like to include plans for their care or education in your will? Should they become beneficiaries? 

Other events can affect your will as well. Recently, for example, the stock market fell steeply as a result of coronavirus and related economic fears (Mejdrich, Kellie Politico LLC 16 Mar 2020). Any significant change in your assets (positive or negative) might be a good time to re-evaluate your will’s provisions. Do you have less money to divide among your beneficiaries, for example? Or do altered life plans, such as retirement pushed longer into the future, alter your beneficiary amounts? Or, perhaps, it may be a good time to gift stocks that have declined in value to help avoid estate taxes? 

Powers of attorney may need to be periodically reviewed as well. Both types can become important as you grow older. Contemporary events can affect them as well. As the coronavirus sweeps the nation, for example, it may be particularly important to have both in place in case you become ill. 

At Prism Planning Partners, we are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS ™️ committed to facilitating important questions so that we can help you explore all of your opportunities. We offer a broad array of financial planning and consulting services for our clients-including estate planning. 

Contact us today and let us illuminate your possibilities! 

Glossary: 

Estate Plan – The preparation of tasks to manage an individual’s assets in the event of their incapacitation or death. This written plan can include concepts such as asset disbursement at death; beneficiary designations; guardianship; and, in some cases, settlement of estate taxes. 

Probate – A legal process in which a court administers a deceased person’s estate. During this process, the validity of a will may also be determined. 

SOURCES 

Mejdrich, Kellie. “Stocks plunge in largest 1-day drop over coronavirus crisis”. Politico LLC. 16 Mar 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/stock-market-plunge-coronavirus-131812 

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