This fall, Hurricane Katrina slammed into Mississippi and Louisiana and forever changed many lives. It reminded us all of the uncertainties that we live with every day. In the wake of Katrina we were all frustrated with the delays, confusion, and mounting costs.
Over the years we have seen firsthand the frustration, delays, confusion and mounting costs our clients’ heirs face when a loved one dies. We have witnessed the difficulty heirs have dealing with complex and unfamiliar issues, and many times each other, during a period of grief. In response to what we have seen we are expanding our Estate Planning services to make it better for our clients and their heirs.
Our expanded Estate Planning service begins with three objectives in mind:
- Minimize conflict and confusion among family members
- Help ensure that our clients’ wealth is managed and distributed as they wish
- Minimize the tax burdens which are passed on to heirs
As you know, BWFA has always offered Estate Planning services. While the service we now offer helps meet some of these needs, it lacks continuity and ongoing oversight. More importantly, our Estate Planning service is not currently structured so that we can help guide heirs at the most critical time, and when they need the most help. And that’s pretty silly, given that we probably know more about our clients’ wealth and wishes than any other advisors our clients have. Our improved Estate Planning services are designed to plug the holes that now exist, so that our clients and their heirs can be confident in knowing that BWFA knows what’s going on and is in a position to provide informed, expert and unbiased guidance to heirs.
Since we manage our clients’ investment assets, prepare their taxes and monitor their financial plans, who could possibly be better suited to guide heirs? Our new expanded Estate Planning service has three phases:
- Review and Organize Your Estate – We want to make sure your intentions are fulfilled. We will work with you to:
- Review Your Estate Planning Documents (wills, trusts, life insurance policies, durable powers of attorney, advanced medical directives, beneficiary designation forms, etc.) to make sure they are consistent with your intentions and that your estate plan has been fully implemented. For instance, if your beneficiary designations do not match the intentions of your will then your estate plan has not been implemented.
- Create a Letter of Instruction. The letter of instruction will have a simple “plain English” explanation of how your estate is organized, important information about your estate, and any of your wishes that would be impractical to put in your will.
- Maintain your Estate Planning file. When something happens, all the important documents are in one place, and we know what to do.
- Update Meetings – We will have periodic face-to-face meetings with you (and your heirs, if you wish) in order to:
- Review your estate plan to make sure everything is current.
- Provide explanations of how things work and the wealth transfer process.
- Begin preparing your heirs for the eventual transfer of your wealth.
Of course, we will not discuss anything with heirs which our clients wish to be kept confidential.
- Assist Your Heirs – When something happens, we will be there to guide your heirs through the process of transferring your wealth, and to minimize delays, costs and confusion.
Why do we want to implement this service? For you, it will better insure that the three goals of Estate Planning are met. We think it is the best solution to the many problems we have witnessed in the current estate settlement process. For us, we would like to meet and work with your heirs so we can continue to manage your wealth (and theirs) for the next generation! This service gets us closer to your heirs.
We expect our clients will find comfort in knowing their estates are in order and their spouses and heirs will have someone to help them through very difficult times. As with all our services, we want to make this one simple, cost effective, and totally transparent.