Plan for the Future

Assemble Your Estate Planning Pro Team

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To put together a rock solid estate plan, you're going to want to enlist some professional help. Here's who you'll want on your team, what each person's role is and what to ask yourself as you search for the right professional.

Estate planning attorney

What this person does

  • Helps you create many of the legal documents that make up your estate plan
  • Goes over your family and financial situations with you and creates documents that carry out your wishes in the most efficient way possible
  • Discusses tax laws with you to ensure you take advantage of all these to the maximum amount allowable by law

Questions to consider

  • Does this attorney have a background specific to estate planning?
  • What credentials or referrals reinforce this attorney's credibility?
  • Is this attorney reasonably priced for the services I'm receiving? What options should I consider to make this more affordable?

Financial planner and/or life insurance agent

What this person does

  • Helps make sure your estate plan fits with your overall financial goals and intentions
  • Works with you to develop a broader plan that covers needs such as retirement, investments and insurance that protects property and financial risks
  • Helps you understand your beneficiary designations and how they are used to distribute assets outside the authority of your will. You'll work with this person over time to ensure these are kept current with your life and needs.

Questions to consider

  • Does this person have experience specific to my needs or is he or she a generalist?
  • Is this person an independent agent or working for a specific company? How does this affect the product or investment he or she is recommending to me?
  • What credentials and referrals reinforce this person's credibility?

Tax specialist and/or certified public accountant

What this person does

  • Advises on more complicated tax and financial issues. Helps ensure that your estate plan fits with your other financial plans and decisions.
  • Works with you throughout your life to file taxes and make other financial decisions
  • Will be familiar with your situation and be able to assist your executor with filing taxes and other responsibilities

Questions to consider

  • What level of knowledge do I need from this person that I'm not getting from other professionals?
  • Will this person be a good resource for my named executor to use when carrying out final responsibilities?

Each of these roles is important. As you consider who the right partner is for you, you may find that one person may be able to fill more than one role or you may have someone different for each role. Start your search by using the following sources:

  • Personal referrals. Ask friends and family members who they've used for their planning. Try to ask questions about what the person actually did for them rather than just getting a name of someone.
  • Professional referrals. Once you've found one professional you feel comfortable with, ask for referrals from that person. If you've found your first professional based on compatible and trust, you're likely to have a similar relationship with people he or she recommends.
  • Professional associations. Consider looking at state and local bar associations websites for attorneys. Look into financial professionals and insurance agents with professional designations such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Life Underwriter (ChLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
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