You might think that only the wealthy need comprehensive estate and financial plans, but that is not true. Anyone who has a person or cause that they care about and want to provide for upon their death can benefit from estate planning. Your financial and estate planning team can help you not only develop your estate plans but also manage and support those plans throughout your lifetime and upon your death.
The actual make-up of your team may vary, but you may choose to include:
- Your estate planning attorney
- Financial advisor
- Certified public accountant
- Insurance agent
- Spiritual and health advisors
Your entire team should do their part to help safeguard your assets and protect you from financial abuse or fraud. Unfortunately, fraud is more common than you might think. The National Council on Aging estimates that the annual cost of financial abuse and fraud perpetrated against older Americans is between $2.6 billion and $36 billion annually.
Expectations for your estate planning team
Here are some expectations you should have when selecting members of your financial and estate planning team.
- They will watch your accounts for fraudulent activity. When you hire a financial advisor, it comes with the expectation they will manage your money, provide sound advice, and safeguard your financial legacy. Discuss these expectations with your financial advisor upfront. Ask how they plan to monitor your accounts and what you can expect from them if they notice any suspicious activity. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) offers rules your financial advisor can rely on in order to mitigate problems. For example, rule 4512 advises that customers provide financial advisors with contact information for a trusted person who can be contacted if the financial advisor suspects financial abuse or suspicious activity. Rule 2165 gives the investment firm the power to temporarily halt the disbursement of funds if they suspect financial exploitation is potentially occurring.
- They will ensure your documents are properly executed. Your attorney is tasked with making sure your wishes are accurately and legally documented. In addition, your attorney can suggest other options to protect your assets, such as appointing a corporate trustee instead of using a family member or friend. Your estate planning attorney can also help you structure your trust to include roles that provide checks and balances on disbursements and other decisions.
- They review changes to your documents. Your estate and financial planning team can review changes that you want to make to your documents and discuss the implications of these changes. Your team can help ensure that any potential changes align with your wishes and goals and are not the result of undue influence from any opportunistic person. As long as you are able to make your own decisions, you should expect your team should advise you on the pros and cons of your requests for changes and then make those changes. If you are unable to make decisions for yourself, they can help ensure your documents are not changed and will act cautiously if they are not 100 percent certain that the changes you are requesting are of your own volition.
- They can keep track of income and expenses. If you have a long history of working with a certified public accountant or tax preparer, they will have a good idea of your income and expenses trends. When you meet with them regularly, they can alert you if your spending has increased or there is a problem with your ratio of income to spend.
- Your team may offer bookkeeping services. As you age or your interests change, you may prefer to hire someone to help with the tasks of balancing your checkbook or paying your bills. Your financial advisor may be able to provide or recommend a bookkeeping service that can track your expenses and alert a trusted person if there is a suspicion of fraud or financial abuse. Having an outside party manage your bookkeeping can ensure that your payments meet your financial obligations and not someone else’s.
Your estate planning and financial advising teams are here to assist you. We hope to help you enjoy your retirement years with a team of people monitoring your financial and estate plans to protect you from becoming a victim of financial abuse. If you are interested in learning more about the safeguards we can offer you or a loved one to protect your investments as you age, we encourage you to call us today.