Estate Planning Process
Estate Planning as it should be
By: Richard A. Selinger, J.D., LL.M.
LegacyCare is a name I trademarked to describe a philosophy and process I use in helping my clients achieve their estate planning goals and objectives.
I consider myself to be a goal oriented estate planning attorney, meaning I plan with “the end in sight,” helping my clients identify and articulate exactly what they would like to see happen should they become disabled/incapacitated or die, and then implementing strategies and techniques to achieve that vision.
I believe in providing extensive personalized counseling, insuring fully funded living trusts, leaving assets to loved ones in lifetime protective trusts, encouraging participation in a formal updating and education program, which includes beneficiary education and successor trustee training.
Through my association with the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys (NNEPA) I became a student and a follower of the Esperti Peterson approach to estate planning. I have incorporated many of their principles into my own process and philosophy of estate planning.
To help my clients determine if we would work well together, and to provide them with clear expectations and an understanding of my approach to estate planning, I introduce them, at our initial meeting, with the following set of estate planning principles I adhere to in helping create successful estate plans:
1. Estate planning is not a transaction where the client simply trades a check for a stack of documents, but rather a process, rooted in the relationship established between the client and the attorney and other planning partners, that involves periodic review and updating of the estate plan, proper titling and organization of assets, and continuing client education and family involvement.
2. Estate planning is about protecting the ones you love and care about and those who depend upon you. If you become disabled or die your loved ones will naturally go through a very difficult time.
Providing them with clear instructions and the legal authority to do what you would have done, will shield them from having to make stressful decisions on their own and give them the confidence of knowing they are doing the right things.
3. Recognizing that the client’s wealth is not limited to financial matters and providing counseling, information and suggestions about leaving a meaningful and lasting legacy for future generations.
4. Spending the time to properly educate and counsel my clients on all of the applicable estate planning techniques and strategies available to enable them to make the right decisions for themselves and their families.
5. Spending the time to help clients identify and articulate their planning goals and objectives, some of which they may never have even considered, such as:
* Protecting assets from creditors, divorces, catastrophic illness, etc.
* Preparing Heirs, Successor Trustees and Agents
* Providing for the client’s needs should they become disabled/incapacitated
* Making clear the client’s wishes as they relate to end of life issues
* Providing for the needs of minor children and older beneficiaries
6. Recognizing that proper estate planning incorporates components such as legacy planning, special needs planning, retirement planning, and disability planning, requiring an interdisciplinary approach.
7. Making sure that living trusts are fully funded and the client’s assets are titled properly, as well as updating beneficiary designations, all in a way that is consistent with the estate plan. After all it makes no sense to leave the vacation home to Johnny if it is jointly owned with Mary.
8. Recognizing that the most successful estate plans are those in which a team approach is employed and the collaboration level is high among all of the client’s trusted advisors and planning partners – the attorney, financial planner, accountant, life insurance agent, etc.
9. Maintaining a structured and formalized update and review program to keep the estate plan current, so that it reflects changes in the client’s goals, family situation, and life, not to mention the law, and through this structured and formalized program, educating beneficiaries and successor trustees about what their roles and responsibilities will be when the time comes.
10. Providing beneficiaries and successor trustees with the assistance they will need should the client become disabled/incapacitated or die, by providing for a streamlined process to handle the client’s affairs, allowing those who come after to focus on the important matters, like helping their loved one during a difficult time or grieving and honoring their memory.
11. Providing ongoing assistance to the client’s beneficiaries through a wealth transition process, including financial training, which requires an interdisciplinary approach.
12. Appreciating that comprehensive estate planning is, in the end, an act of love and applies regardless of whether he client is of high or low net worth.