The tumult of the current tax season is winding down, but advisors can provide a valuable additional service to their wealthy clients by encouraging them to closely review their estate plans to ensure these are up to date.
Estate plans are valid at the time they are signed, but sometimes years or decades pass before they come into play and circumstances change: assets grow or retract, designated trustees die, family members have falling-outs.
Keeping estate plans current is essential to protecting clients’ families and their assets, Blooma Stark, an attorney with Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa, said in a telephone interview with AdvisorOne.
Stark noted that accountants are often the advisor clients see most often—at least once a year—and so are well positioned to recommend an estate plan review. In contrast, clients may see their attorneys only at wide intervals. She said she had just spoken with a client who had prepared an estate plan 20 years ago, and only recently realized she needed to update the plan.
Stark listed five estate plan areas to which advisors can direct clients’ attention for review. Doing this now “can save a lot of time and aggravation down the road,” she said.
1. Review Documents
It’s essential that a client’s estate plan documents align with his or her current situation. Often a review will show one or more of these need to be updated, Stark said. Especially important are the will, power of attorney, living will and trust.
2. Determine Familial Situation
Clients should assess whether their relationships with people they’ve named as guardians, executors, trustees or agents under a power of attorney are in good standing. If not, they will need to appoint others to fill those roles.