Do you feel that your lawyer has already taken care of your estate planning needs?
You might be surprised to learn that proper estate planning requires multiple areas of expertise and very seldom can a lawyer alone do the job properly.
Estate planning is a crucial part of wealth management, particularly if your estate involves significant assets and more complex issues that can create avoidable costs to your estate and challenges for your executor(s). When properly structured, an estate plan can reduce the taxes and expenses related to your estate, simplify and speed the transition of assets to the next generation and ensure that your beneficiaries are protected.
It is about much more than just having a will.
So what can we do to help you properly plan for the transition of your estate?
Step 1: We document an inventory of your assets and liabilities.
This initial stage involves creating a full list of all of your assets and liabilities including real estate, investments, accounts, valuable personal property, and details of any businesses you may own. The cost to purchase or set up these assets (known as the Adjusted Cost Basis or ACB) is also an important detail necessary to calculate potential future tax liabilities. We would also need to review your recent tax return(s) to document details of carry-forward capital gains and losses. It is also wise to document the location and pertinent details regarding your personal documents. These include:
- Will(s) and Power of Attorney for property and personal care
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Marriage contracts
- Buy-Sell Agreements for Corporations you own
- Insurance policies
- Real estate deeds
- Location of safety deposit boxes
- Details of pre-planned funeral arrangements
- Location of trust documents
- List and contact information of your professional advisors (financial planner, lawyer, accountant)
- Names and addresses of executor(s)/trustee(s) and beneficiaries of your Will and trustees for your children if any
Step 2: We define your objectives and goals for your estate.
Once we have detailed the assets and liabilities involved in your estate, we need to define your goals both personal and financial. Using these, we can make specific recommendations to achieve these goals the best way possible.
- Who will be the beneficiaries of your estate and in what proportions?
- What will be the impacts on family dynamics and relationships?
- Who would you trust to manage your affairs and follow your wishes? Are they qualified?
- What lifestyle would you want to provide for your immediate family if you passed away?
- Are there significant family assets that will need to be dealt with?
- Is minimizing income tax and probate taxes important to you?
- Do you want your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance immediately or do you want it delayed or with any controls?
- Do you wish to donate any part of your estate to charities?
Step 3: We design and evaluate your estate plan.
The team at Lighthouse Private Wealth will design a plan to achieve your goals and help you organize your estate. We will create a clear picture of your assets so that you can see how everything fits together. Together with the aid of your lawyer and your accountant we can either review your existing will and help update it if necessary, or we can help you create a new Will and Power of Attorney. We may want to consider the value of using trust structures or estate freezes to protect your estate and your family, review and discuss tax planning tools and strategies, and recommend appropriate products where necessary to complete the plan. For our business and farm owner clients, special attention must be paid to corporate share structures, exit strategies and tax implications of any changes being made. Investments and life insurance must also be structured properly using the appropriate financial products and having the correct beneficiaries in place. Once the initial plan is developed we will review it with you and make adjustments if necessary before it is implemented.
Step 4: We help you implement your plan.
This is decision time. After reviewing and explaining our recommendations to improve your situation, you can move forward making any necessary changes. You may have already chosen to work with a Lighthouse Private Wealth planner, however if not you must first recognize the value of choosing the right professional to manage your wealth. Although your lawyer is necessary to perform some of the legal aspects of your estate planning, it is crucial that you include a Certified Financial Planner to actually create your plan. Your chosen professional must be licensed and educated for both the insurance and investment industries, with experience in the banking world to be qualified to assist you with your estate plan. They should be knowledgeable in tax planning, legal issues, insurance and investments, and have the required professional designations such as a CFP and CLU designation. Many “advisors” out there are actually sales representatives and may not be recommending what is in your best interest or be qualified to provide financial advice.
Once you choose your estate planner, and you have become comfortable with your estate plan recommendations you will likely have to make changes to where your investment assets are held, apply for life insurance if needed, and meet with your other professionals to finalize or update your important legal documents. Our team can also assist you by introducing you to trusted professionals in your area that are experts in their field.
Step 5: We Monitor and Review Your Plan.
Once your plan is in place, we will regularly review your plan to ensure everything is still appropriate to your goal set. Your goals may change, tax and legal implications may have changed, and new strategies may become available. Regular review and updates keep your estate plan current so that when the time comes, it will provide for the most effective transition of your assets to your loved ones or the causes that you believe in. Our team will also be there for your family to provide guidance and help make decisions when they lose a family member. Your Estate Trustee (Executor) Power of Attorney, and beneficiaries can lean on us for guidance and help in this challenging time.
Matthew Aston is the most honest and trustworthy person I have ever had to represent my financial and insurance needs. He also has a wonderful personality to go along with his work ethic. I would recommend Matthew for any person or business to hire.
Ever since they have taken over looking after my investments, my returns have been better than I thought possible. Consistently making more than 10% per year without having to experience a lot of volatility. I would certainly recommend their team to anyone.
I took my portfolio to James for a free consultation where he pointed out to me many issues that were causing me to lose money. Within two years James had made up the losses in my portfolio plus a tidy little profit.
He is very knowledgeable and is aware of market conditions at all times, taking the time to meet with us personally to communicate and update us so that we feel comfortable that our life savings are in capable hands.
He is different than any other wealth manager we have worked with....When running a business, there is little time left to babysit our professionals. We need a partner we can trust to do that for us. Thankfully, Matt is happy to help us with that whenever it’s needed.
I would highly recommend Matthew and his team to anyone and everyone that is tired of the mediocre and would like to have excellence, quality service, expertise, and care in the area of their wealth. This is one partnership you won’t regret.
We have been a client of James Hughes for the past 13 years. James is always helpful, knowledgeable and he has always guided us through the many arms of our financial and retirement planning.
James provides us with peace of mind, knowing that someone is diligently looking after our investments, suggesting changes as needed, and is constantly monitoring where we are in terms of our retirement plans.
Matt has been advising my wife Katharine and me since June 2010. Our initial meeting was to review our Insurance coverage. As Matt gained our trust we switched all of our mutual fund investments to his management (January 2011).
Kim and I have had a lot of bad luck with accountants and advisers. Thank goodness we were introduced to Matt Aston.