In last week’s edition of Retirement Watch Weekly, we began revealing a list of reasons why most estate plans often fail. Please read on for the rest of the list…
Clients generally need an estate planner who will spend some time getting to know about their families, their finances, and their general goals and values.
Together they use that information to help formulate specific goals.
Then, the estate plan can be developed.
How much time this takes depends on how complicated a person’s situation is.
The complaint that the plans are too complicated is telling.
Remember these are high net worth individuals.
They generally should be people who are familiar with finance and have at least dabbled in some complicated issues.
They also should know that estate planning can be complicated, especially if tax reduction is important.
Yet, their estate planners are unable to explain satisfactorily how the plans would achieve their goals.
My guess is that many estate planners view themselves as technicians and perhaps assume a certain level of knowledge among their clients.
The planners might do a poor job of communicating how a plan achieves a client’s goals because they assume knowledge by a client and use legal jargon.
They also might not take the time to learn clients’ true goals.
It can take a while for someone to open up to a stranger about the details of his or her family, finances, goals, and aspirations, and planners might not take the time.
Perhaps, too, clients are intimidated by the situation and an attorney’s use of estate planning jargon.
They don’t ask enough questions.
You can take steps to avoid being one of those clients who spends a lot of money to have an estate plan developed, and then does not implement the plan.
Ask your friends and colleagues for referrals. Most estate planners are recommended through other professionals. The professionals know the estate planner is competent and can communicate with him or her. But they probably do not know how the planner communicates with clients.
It might be better to get a referral from a satisfied client than from a professional who works with the attorney.
Meet with several estate planners before making a commitment. The estate planner should know more than almost anyone else about you and your finances. If you are not comfortable sharing details with an estate planner and asking questions or if you think the two of you aren’t communicating, it probably will not be a successful relationship.
It’s better to meet with several prospective planners to develop an idea of your choices and the type of individual you want to work with.
Do a lot of preparatory work. Gather and organize information so the attorney can be presented with a clear picture of both your finances and family. Some estate planners have questionnaires or worksheets for clients to complete. If not offered one, ask for one and complete it thoroughly as soon as possible.
This reduces the time the attorney spends gathering information and increases the time that can be spent getting to know you and developing a plan.
Do not be afraid to ask questions or for a better explanation. Part of the attorney’s job is to be sure you understand the plan and are comfortable with it. You should be sure the goals are understood and you know how the plan will meet them.
Keep in mind that it is your plan and your responsibility. The attorney is working for you. If there are things you are unsure of or do not understand, persist until the plan is clear.
The consequences of not having an estate plan in place can be disastrous for loved ones.
Putting together an estate plan takes a lot of time and money.
Do not waste those resources by having a plan that is not implemented. And one of the most valuable resources you can use for this is my monthly newsletter, Retirement Watch. In each issue, you’ll learn the best strategies for improving your estate plan, as well as all other topics related to your retirement. Check it out right here.
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