You may have been in control of your finances the majority of your life, you pay the bills, file the taxes, make savings and investment decisions, but in the violent, chaotic, and busy world we now live, it’s becoming more and more difficult to stay on top of the ever-changing stock markets, tax rates, and estate laws. More importantly, your golf handicap needs a bit of work. Now more than ever, it is time to put together your TDT, Trust Dream Team.
Estate planning is a process that requires continuous care and maintenance, and any fine-tuned high-performance estate planning team needs a diverse group of professionals who are in total alignment. At the helm, the leader of the pack is you! You are the most import member of your team. Your Trust Dream Team may do a wonderful job advising you and have your best interest in mind, perhaps even a legal obligation to do so, but no one will care more about your legacy and your money then you do. Your estate plan takes care of you and those dearest to you, you are the leader, the boss and driving force in the estate planning process, so before getting your team together be sure to determine your own goals and expectations.
The other members of your TDT include your estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and your accountant. This professional team needs to be in perfect alignment, making synchronized movements leveraging each unique skill set and expertise to move efficiently and effectively towards your goals.
Estate Planning Attorney:
Your estate planning attorney sets the legal framework the team will be working from. The goal here is to take care of you for your life and then the loved ones you will eventually leave behind. What legacy do you wish to leave? Your estate planning attorney will provide comfort and peace of mind that the documents you set in place will put you at ease at the end of life and secure the futures of your loved ones. Individuals that are charitably inclined, are of high net worth, have family-owned businesses, complicated taxes, extensive real estate, planning for a loved one with special needs, or need elder law advice should seek attorneys that specialize in these areas.
Your attorney will educate you on the applicable legal issues, as well as tax and non-tax options available, in your particular estate plan. They will also draft the estate planning documents necessary to implement your individualized plan.
Your financial advisor may be one or more of the following professionals: Trust Officer, Financial Planner, Investment Advisor, Insurance Consultant, Stock Broker, and/or Money Manager. They can review statements, identify goals, recommend portfolios of mutual funds based on your goals, age, and risk tolerance, and save for specific life hurdles like paying for college or retirement.
Your financial advisor will educate you on the financial aspects of your estate plan which includes the preservation and growth of your estate. He or she will also assist in implementing your estate plan which includes funding and retitling of assets as are necessary to meet your estate planning goals.
Your accountant will do a whole lot more than preparing your tax returns. Obviously, an accountant will assist in your income tax planning and filing your annual returns but he or she will also help you to take a big picture look at your finances and set up efficient systems for managing and reviewing them on a regular basis. Life changes like marriage, divorce or the birth of a child has tax ramifications and are great times to consult with your accountant.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between income tax and estate and gift tax. The first is a tax on the accumulation of your wealth, while the latter is a tax on the transfer of the wealth to another person.
How to Choose the Right TDT Professionals:
- Evaluate your personal needs and goals. Depending on your own strengths and weaknesses, you can figure out what type of professional expertise and personality fits best.
- Use your referral sources. You may get lucky doing an online or phone book search but statistically speaking you are better off asking your family, friends or current trusted professionals for recommendations.
- Ask the right questions. Check credentials and interview or meet with several prospective advisors and be sure to ask the questions that matter most to you, such as, “What are your qualifications?”, “How long have you been handling matters of this nature?”, “How are you compensated?”, “Will I have regular access to their time and can I call with a question or for a quick consultation?”, “How can I monitor my account?”, “What percentage of your practice is devoted to estate planning?”, or “Will I get quarterly statements?”
- Trust your instincts. If you get along great and conversation is easy, it will likely be easy to talk to them about the important and tough decisions in your life.
- Find professionals with leadership skills. You don’t want to be telling your professional what to do, you want them to know what needs to be done next. The professional should add value to your team, assisting you in avoiding mistakes rather than helping you recover.
- Don’t be afraid to switch things up. Change can be scary and when you have worked with the same advisors for years it is easy to stay in the comfortable rut. If it isn’t working out, switch it up. You may have to interview or try a few professionals out before you find the right one.
More Professionals For Your Personalized TDT:
Computer/IT Professional, Banker, Career Coach, Geriatric Care Manager/Senior Living Specialist, Professional Organizer/Downsizing Expert/Estate Appraisal Firm, and Health Care Professionals.
With your TDT in place, you are prepared to move forward with the design and implementation of your customized estate plan.