It is often a challenge to persuade your clients to enter the estate planning process and you should feel gratified if you’re successful in doing so, it is also tempting to stop there and pat yourself on the back just because the effort was so great. But estate planning is similar to managing money: the strategies must be implemented, monitored and adjusted as times change. While this may seem like a burden, it is also an opportunity. It is a chance for you to be proactive in helping your clients think through and meet many of their goals and a chance for you to discover more about who they really. This type of interaction often helps to build a long and lasting relationship.
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Most advisors send their willing clients off to an estate planning attorney and wait to hear that their documents are drafted and signed. Some advisors even get executed copies for their files. However, those advisors that are truly motivated to build strong ties to their clients stay much more involved. They may meet with or discuss the planning with the attorney and often help guide the clients through the translation of legal terms into plain language. Clients who become confused by complicated terminology usually don’t complete their plans.
Once documents are signed, the process isn’t complete. In fact, it’s just beginning. Trusts need to be funded, beneficiaries need to be changed, assets need to be re-titled and all of this needs to be discussed thoughtfully with the client. Certainly some attorneys do some or all of this work. But most don’t. They often mail their clients, YOUR clients, a letter of instruction telling them what to do. And it never gets done. This presents a tremendous opportunity for you. You can step in and help your clients complete this step. In fact, without this portion being complete, the estate plan is a failure anyway. Getting proper forms and submitting the right documents to all of the investment companies, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and insurance companies can be tedious work. But it should be something you’re better equipped to do than your clientele.
During the implementation phase, you may even discover assets you didn’t know about or insurance policies that need review. Estate planning often uncovers everything about a family. It is also something that needs to be monitored. Just as portfolios need to change with circumstances, so does the estate plan.
Changes in the tax law or changes in family circumstances all demand a review of a family’s estate plan. It’s one more reason to be in touch with your clients. Not to sell them something but to help them. Not very many advisors take the time to do this even though it’s what your clients need and want.