So, you have decided you want to start working on your estate plan. That is great - there is no better time than now!
The next step is finding a company to work with but how do you choose the right one?
There are many things to consider when making this decision and, to help you along the way, here are four factors we think you should look at before starting your estate planning journey.
When choosing an estate planner, it is important to consider credentials. While many people say they can organize and manage your estate, what you really want to know is whether they can do it efficiently, maximizing wealth, minimizing tax and reducing familial conflict.
To do this, they need to be properly educated in estate planning and the various tools and techniques available to them. That is why, when choosing an estate planner, you should give serious contemplation to is using a Trust and Estate Practitioner.
A trust and Estate Practitioner is somebody that has 10 years tenure and their area of expertise and specialty is estate planning. It means that they are up-to-date with current estate planning tools and techniques and that they are staying on top of legislative changes that come down the pipeline.
And with estate planning becoming more and more complex, it is crucial that your estate planner is focused and current.
Ability to Work with Others
Another important factor to consider is whether your estate planner is capable, and willing, to work with others. When designing your estate, you want your professional team to work collaboratively among themselves and with necessary experts.
Nobody can be a specialist in every area of estate planning. It’s too complex. With multiple jurisdictions, techniques, and unique situations, you want to be sure that your estate planner has access to the knowledge they need to properly consider, and address, all the issues that you may face in the execution of a comprehensive plan.
You want to know that your estate planning team will be able to work with other experts to ensure that you meet your estate planning objectives, whether those experts are a part of your family’s team of professionals, or third parties recommended by your planner.
There is a huge difference between understanding something and being able to do it. A mechanic doesn’t become an expert by reading a book on how to fix a car. He spends years in a shop fixing all types of vehicles, learning from others, before he can do it flawlessly.
It is the same with estate planning. While many professionals have taken courses on estate planning, and maybe even had some opportunities to prepare estate plans, that doesn't mean they have the experience, or expertise, to ensure they are making the right decision for your unique situation.
And, because every situation is unique, this is crucial.
To illustrate, imagine you own a piece of international property (maybe you really do). You could write a will to transfer the estate to your children but, even though it's a feasible option, this technique could result in international estate tax and will create additional complications in terms of probate.
While this solution may have worked in the past, for locally owned real estate, someone without experience may not realize the issues that could arise if applied on international property, or even property that is simply out of state/province.
To ensure your estate plan corresponds with your objectives and, ultimately, carries out your wishes, you will have to share a lot of information with your estate planner, and answer questions that may make you uneasy.
You will have to communicate your life goals, discuss family dynamics and consider what should happen to you and your dependents, if you ever become incapable of making the decisions yourself.
This can be very emotional, and can get uncomfortable, if you're not working with someone you trust and feel at ease with.
That is why it is so important to ensure that the estate planner you choose is someone you respect and get along with, on a professional but personal level.
Your estate planner can’t provide you with the best advice, nor select the most effective estate planning tools, unless they understand your whole situation. And to do that, you have to feel comfortable talking about the details of your estate with them.