Six Common Estate Planning Questions

Estate planning is the preparation of managing someone’s assets in the event of their incapacitation or death. The advisors at Private Ocean frequently work with clients in partnership with their estate planning attorneys and other professionals to ensure that the client’s wishes are carried out. Here are some frequently asked questions that our advisors often receive about estate planning.

Question 1: What does the trustee or executor of my estate actually do?

In handling the estate the executor is legally responsible for sorting out the finances of the person who has passed away, generally making sure that debts and taxes are paid and that assets are properly distributed. Some examples of the things you might do as an executor include notifying banks of the death of the person, opening bank accounts in the name of the estate, making sure tax returns are filed, checking on required payments from IRAs, managing property and upkeep, preparing for the sale of property, attending to digital assets and social media accounts and more. You can certainly ask for help from an estate planning attorney with some of these tasks, but it’s still a lot of work that can be time consuming. Sometimes we recommend considering hiring a professional fiduciary firm who can help some of this work. They typically charge by the hour at reasonable rates.

Question 2: What should we think about and discuss before we meet with our estate attorney?

There are four critical questions that we recommend you ask yourself before you meet with an estate attorney:

  1. Who is going to make the important financial and medical decisions on my behalf during my life in the event I can’t do that for myself?
  2. Who would I want to raise my children if they are still minors?
  3. Who is going to receive my assets? At the highest level, there are three buckets to consider: Heirs, who are individuals, Charities, and then Government, which comes in the form of estate taxes.
  4. How should my assets be distributed? You don’t have to have all of these details worked out, but having discussed the ideal way to have your estate distributed before you meet with an estate attorney will help make your conversation more beneficial.

Question 3: What is the typical experience when you meet with an estate attorney and what you should expect at the end of the engagement?

A good attorney needs to be both an excellent communicator and a good listener. Plan on having several meetings with an attorney to acquaint them with your situation, to draft documents and answer questions, and then to sign these documents. Bu the end of the process you should understand your estate plan, and have your signed documents and marching orders on how you might change the titling of assets and beneficiary designations should the need arise.

Question 4: How often should my estate plan be revisited?

Creating an estate plan is not a “one and done” event. Whenever there’s a change in sentiment about how you want to leave your estate, or you experience a major life event (a birth of a child or a new grandchild, a marriage, a divorce, or a change in the capabilities of your beneficiary, etc.) you should make time to revisit our estate plan to determine if you’d like to make any adjustments. Another instance is in regards to state estate taxes, which change frequently. (Maybe not in recent years, but at one point in time state estate taxes were an issue if you had over 600K in assets).

Question 5: What general advice do you have?

This is one questions that we receive frequently from our clients, and we typically offer two pieces of advice. The first is to not procrastinate about actually completing an estate plan. One issue that we see the most often is that clients start working with an attorney on an estate plan and don’t complete it, or they’re still in the thought process stage of planning before they meet with an attorney. Estate planning is just as much about the present as it is about the future. Knowing these documents can be changed at any time offers you the ability to ensure that your present-day circumstances are handled in the most ideal way possible. If you don’t have all the answers for the future, that’s ok! There will be lots of reasons to change your estate plan along the way. The second piece of advice is that “perfect can be the enemy of good.” You don’t have to have every last piece of your estate plan figured out before you have it drafted. Go ahead and meet with your attorney and get those documents put in place now. It’s always better to have something than nothing and you risk leaving your wishes to chance if something should happen to you. Just remember that estate planning is an art and a science. The science is the technical tools and strategies you can employ to take care of your assets and your beneficiaries. The art is knowing how to judiciously use those tools and strategy so that the end result doesn’t end up being unnecessarily complicated.

Question 6: How does Private Ocean help clients with estate planning?

Our advisors can certainly help discuss your answers to the four questions above in Question 2. Our clients sometimes ask us to attend these meetings with the estate planning attorney, and we can review their estate plan with them from time to time. We talk to our clients more often than perhaps they meet with their attorney, so we might hear about life changes or other events that could be worth the client’s time to share with their attorney who in turn can help revise their estate plan.

For more information on Estate Planning, we encourage you to visit our website

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION

Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the  future  performance  of  any  specific  investment,  investment  strategy,  or  product (including  the  investments  and/or  investment  strategies  recommended  or  undertaken by Private Ocean,  LLC [“Private  Ocean”]),  or  any  non-investment  related  content,  made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated  historical  performance  level(s),  be  suitable  for  your  portfolio  or  individual situation,  or  prove  successful.    Due  to  various  factors,  including  changing  market conditions  and/or  applicable  laws,  the  content  may  no  longer  be  reflective  of  current opinions  or  positions.    Moreover,  you  should  not  assume  that  any  discussion  or information  contained  in  this  blog  serves  as  the  receipt  of,  or  as  a  substitute  for, personalized investment advice from Private Ocean.  Please remember that if you are a Private Ocean client, it remains your responsibility to advise Private Ocean, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/ evaluating/ revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or  if  you  would  like  to  impose,  add,  or  to  modify  any  reasonable  restrictions  to  our investment advisory services. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any  specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Private Ocean is  neither  a  law  firm  nor  a  certified  public  accounting  firm  and  no  portion  of  the  blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Private Ocean’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available for  review  upon  requestor  at www.privateocean.com. Please  Note: Private  Ocean does not  make  any representations  or  warranties  as  to  the  accuracy,  timeliness,  suitability, completeness,  or  relevance  of  any  information  prepared  by  any  unaffiliated  third  party, whether  linked  to Private  Ocean’s web  site  or blog  or  incorporated  herein,  and  takes  no responsibility   for   any   such   content. All   such   information   is   provided   solely   for convenience  purposes  only  and  all  users  thereof  should  be  guided  accordingly. Please Also  Note: If  you  are  a Private  Ocean client, Please  advise  us if  you  have  not  been receiving account statements (at least quarterly) from the account custodian.