Going in to the holidays is a good time to start thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions. As the year ends, we reflect on all that we have accomplished. We should then consider what goals to set for the coming year. In 2018, make the decision to SURPASS your 2017 accomplishments. This motivated outlook doesn’t just benefit you. As you succeed, your clients will succeed. An easy way to begin, is by setting some estate planning resolutions. Below are 5 suggestions from expert Bruce Popper CFP®, ChFC:
Review Your Clients Estate Plan in Light of Tax Law Changes
Given the fluid environment of estate tax law, we believe it’s crucial for clients to continue planning while keeping flexibility in those plans. In the event that the existing gift and estate tax exemptions are doubled, what changes to your client’s estate plans should be made to take maximum advantage of these changes? And what if those tax exemptions turn out to be temporary? Unfortunately, no one can predict the future. Planning for estate taxes is only one very small piece of the puzzle and the beauty of a modern estate plan is that it can be made flexible enough to change as their life and the laws change…which they absolutely will. Your clients will appreciate knowing that you’re following the tax law changes closely and keeping their best interests in mind. Many advisors feel that it is the attorney’s or CPA’s job to discuss changes and opportunities with clients. Actually, this responsibility is owned by no one and everyone at the same time. How would the client feel if a significant opportunity was missed because no action was taken, mainly due to lack of guidance from their full advisory team?
Make Time for Policy Review
Existing Life Insurance is an asset and as such, should be reviewed to make sure it’s potential is being maximized for the benefit of the insured and the family. This is true of personally owned life insurance, business owned life insurance and trust owned life insurance. The choices of what to do are based on 3 things:
- the client’s objectives
- the workings of the existing policy
- the client’s financial situation
Current health is also an issue but there are workarounds for that. Options could include keeping the policy as is, modifying the payment structure, exchanging it, cancelling it, selling it or spending it. Significant changes have been made in these products over the years and taking advantage of better pricing or features, should that be the outcome of the review, can often be done on a tax-free basis. This activity ALWAYS leads to a “thank you” from clients as they get positive feedback in all cases, no matter what. When is the last time a qualified third party provided an opinion on the options available?
Are Your Client’s Assets Protected from Creditors & Predators?
A legitimate question to ask is, “how can we safeguard your hard-earned wealth?” Did you know that 40% of UHNW investors’ top financial concern is protecting their assets from creditors and predators? In almost every state there is significant asset protection for assets held in LLC’s, FLP’s, certain trusts, life insurance and annuities. Are your clients’ assets held appropriately or could it be worth reviewing in light of new acquisitions, personal objectives or legal changes?
Assure Your Client’s Assets are Going to the Right People, at the Right Time, in the Right Way.
A carefully crafted estate plan should also include a review of:
- how assets are titled
- the disposition of assets by will or trust
- the designated beneficiaries of retirement accounts and life insurance.
There is no one-size-fits all beneficiary designation. It is extremely important to coordinate the distribution of these assets with the client’s desired estate planning objectives. If you are uncomfortable or unwilling to ask your clients some tough questions regarding their relationships with their beneficiaries or their thoughts about how certain future family scenarios may play out, we are more than equipped to handle those conversations with the tact necessary to get the answers while not offending anyone. There is unparalleled peace of mind that comes from KNOWING that the legacy you choose to leave is left in a manner that nurtures and supports versus propping up counterproductive behavior. Do your clients have that level of inner satisfaction with their existing plan?
Tax Efficiency. Is There More You Can do to Reduce Current Income Taxes or Future Income Taxes?
A well-constructed estate plan also takes tax-efficiency into consideration as part of the overall plan. After all, increasing tax efficiency can provide greater wealth transfer to heirs and/or charity. If the current estate tax exemption doubles in size, many wealthy individuals will immediately turn their full attention to income tax planning. Once a client’s goals and objectives are understood, there may be several options that can be considered by your clients to reduce income taxes now, in the future and possibly forever, no matter what the tax law may be. Remember, you have to pay taxes but you don’t have to leave a tip! Are you in front of the planning wave for your clients?
Any of the above resolutions, if considered and implemented, is a positive step forward. Following through on all will provide comfort to your clients by knowing you are committed to them and their families. Are you ready to get started? Contact your local Planning Specialist or fill out our contact form.
Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters. Be sure to have your client contact their attorney and CPA before taking action.