Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Rethink Your Legacy" (from Money Magazine)

I recently read a pretty good article in Money Magazine titled "Rethink Your Legacy." I share a number of the same ideas included in the article, and thought it may be of some interest to all of you! To read the article, click HERE.

Monday, June 15, 2009

15 Questions You Must Ask Your Estate Planning Professional

If you've ever hired anyone to prepare a will or a trust, or if you've been thinking about doing so, there are a few questions you simply must ask. Why? Because planning an estate is important--it's important to you and your family. You should know if the professional you work with is experienced and knowledgeable. You should know if the professional you work with cares about the future success of your plan. And, you should know upfront what the entire cost of the plan will be over your lifetime and beyond, not just the fee that is charged to draft the documents.

Here are fifteen questions you must ask when selecting and working with an estate planning professional:
  1. Please tell me about your interest, background and experience in the planning field. What percentage of your practice is in estate planning?
  2. How do you define estate planning?
  3. What is your counseling philosophy?
  4. What is your process for working with me to assure that my plan works?
  5. How will you counsel me to design my plan?
  6. How do we assure that my assets are controlled by my instructions contained in my planning documents? Who is responsible for this coordination, you or me?
  7. How do we assure that my plan stays current with changes in the law?
  8. What is the level of involvement of my family in the planning process?
  9. How do you charge for your services? Specifically, how much will my estate be charged after I'm gone? What if I'm disabled?
  10. (If living trust attorney) What is your record with regard to probate? (What percentage of your trust-based plans wind up having assets probated? Do you charge differently for these assets?
  11. Do you handle the filing of death tax returns if they're necessary? If you do, how do you charge for that service?
  12. What happens if something happens to you?
  13. How do I prepare for our consultation?
  14. What type of service should I expect from you?
  15. Do you expect any commitments from me?
While none of these questions alone should make or break your decision on whether to hire a particular estate planning professional, the answers provided will give you a greater understanding of who the professional is and the process the professional employs while working with client.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do I Need Life Insurance? - Q's to ask yourself!

Life insurance can play a very important role in the estate planning process. When we are planning an estate, we work with our clients and their other professional advisors, including their life insurance professionals and financial planners, to determine whether or not the client is fully covered, and whether the client could benefit from leveraging their life insurance to leave a legacy for their loved ones or to pay estate taxes.  The following questions may be helpful to you in deciding whether to purchase life insurance or in determining whether the policy you have is adequate for your loved ones' needs. 

Our firm does not sell insurance products - that is not our field of expertise.  If you think you and your family could benefit from life insurance, please contact a qualified life insurance professional in your area. 

How do I determine if I need life insurance?

To determine if you are a candidate for life insurance, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Do I have family members who rely on my income? (Consider what would happen to them if you were to suddenly die.)
  • If I do die suddenly, how much of my income will my family need to replace and for how long?
  • How much debt do I have that needs to be paid off in the event of my premature death?
  • How much money should I set aside for my children's college education?
  • What are my expected estate tax obligations and expenses at my death and my spouse's death?
  • Do I have a business partner who would rather not be in business with my spouse if I died?
  • Do I have expected retirement income that may better serve my spouse if I purchase life insurance rather than choosing one of the company's survivorship options?
  • Do I want to create an estate for my family or equalize my estate for estate tax purposes?
If any of these questions are applicable to you or your family, you should seek out a qualified life insurance professional and begin educating yourself about the need for life insurance planning.  It is also important to discuss the addition of life insurance with your estate planning professional who will be able to help you determine the best way for you to own the policy under your estate plan.

While not everyone needs life insurance, it is surprising how many people do not have enough information about life insurance to make an informed decision as to how it may be useful for them.

"Determining the Need for Life Insurance" is an excerpt from the book 21st Century Wealth, which is available online from