When a client’s loved one passes away, it can be challenging to triangulate all the relevant changes in family and tax law, probate law, and Powers of Attorney – especially after the fact. To prevent leakages in your book that come from being underprepared, Lesley Cameron, BMO’s National Director of Estate Planning, provides tips, best practices and checklists for making estate planning a differentiator in your practice.
Early is Right On-Time
In my specialized role, I come across all types of estate planning scenarios – ones where the Advisors plan ahead to account for death or incapacity, and others where a crisis propels a team into action. While there can be reasonable differences of style, it’s clear that waiting for an emergency could leave yourself vulnerable to significant risks that may have clients questioning your value add.
For example, one Advisor recently told me about an aging client that had invested heavily in complex real estate holdings. When the client died, the properties passed to various business partners by virtue of how the assets had been registered, rather than to the next of kin through her estate. Because the client had not taken the time to review the ownership and create foundational documents – e.g. wills, insurance policies, shareholders’ agreements – to deal with how these specific assets would be dealt with, surviving family members were not left with adequate means, and had to resort to litigation to recompense their losses.
The fact is effective estate planning cannot be achieved via a piecemeal approach. Similar to the growing acknowledgement of what holistic wealth planning can do for clients, there is a recognition that Advisors can’t simply assign beneficiaries in an ad-hoc manner – one to this holding, another to that – but must pull together all threads of a client’s estate, in order to ensure a smooth and predictable transition.