Even though it’s your estate, estate planning is not one-person job. Between your will and any other documents outlining what you want to happen in the event of your incapacity or death, it can be quite complex, even if you don’t have many assets. So let’s look at the essentials of estate planning.
For your own peace of mind, for the benefit of your family and beneficiaries, and to ensure that everything goes according to your best-laid plan, you’ll want to have a great estate-planning team in place. Your power players are a financial adviser, a solicitor, an accountant, and you.
Your financial adviser
The role of your financial adviser is to establish and organise your financial plan. This means gathering up your financial information, producing statements of your net worth, determining your beneficiaries, and evaluating your investments.
Your financial adviser also has a professional responsibility to encourage you to prioritise your estate planning sooner rather than later – you don’t want to wait till the last minute, and your adviser should be proactive in convincing you to be proactive. They should also have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of estate planning, be able to communicate these to you, and keep them in mind when putting together or reviewing your financial plan.
Being a legal expert, on the other hand, is not part of your financial adviser’s role. (That’s where your solicitor comes in.) However, your adviser should do more than simply refer you to an estate-planning lawyer and wash their hands of it. Instead, they should work hand in hand with your lawyer. After all, your adviser knows your financial plan very well and can help your lawyer better understand your needs and goals. He can also give the lawyer a heads-up on any financial issues you may have. Your adviser should also explain to you what to expect when you do meet with a solicitor.
Your estate-planning lawyer does have the legal expertise. And a big part of their job is to ensure that all the other team members have a good understanding of the legal issues so you can make informed decisions.
Their role is also to make arrangements for properly settling your estate. These preparations include, among other things, your plan in case of incapacity and your plan for taxes.
Once the plan is in place, the solicitor will then draw up all the official documentation – complete with all the complexities and legalese – for the estate.
Like your financial adviser, your accountant has intimate knowledge of your financial affairs, including your personal income tax. This insider information makes them critical to your estate-planning team. Accountants understand the tax implications of decisions you make when putting together your estate plan.
The accountant’s job is to ensure that your affairs are in order from a tax perspective. Their aim is to both minimise the tax burden and maximise the portion of your estate that goes to your beneficiaries.
Your accountant may also remain on the scene after you die. There will be other administrative tasks to deal with: your last income-tax return, tax returns for the estate, and ongoing administration and tax planning for the estate, for example.
You, the client
Then there’s the team member at the centre of it all: you. First and foremost, your job is to communicate your needs, wishes, and concerns for your estate to your other estate-planning team mates. You’ll want to carefully consider any problems your plan may present – among family members, for example.
Additionally, to further help your estate-planning team help you, you’ll want to keep careful records – personal documents as well as details on how you’ve arranged your affairs.
Finally, it’s critical that you revisit your estate plan on a regular basis or if there are any major changes in your life. Things do change!
With your team mates working closely together in your best interests, you’re sure to have a winning estate plan.
Allied Investment Group advisers specialise in assisting clients take control of their finances so they can have more freedom, choices and security now and in the future. With us on your team, you can rest assured we’ll work closely with you to achieve your financial and estate goals.