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Estate Planning Team

The importance of a great estate planning team cannot be understated. There is a widely-held misconception that estate planning and an estate planning team are reserved for “other” people. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider that many residents of Westchester and Putnam County are millionaires – and they don’t even know it! You might be a millionaire if you own your house unencumbered by a mortgage, have retirement funds in and IRA or 401(k) plan and have some life insurance. For many, home equity represents are large portion of our net worth. It is no longer unusual for home values in Putnam County to exceed $600,000 or $700,000 and in Westchester to exceed $750,000. So, when you include life insurance and retirement plans, you probably need some advanced estate planning.

We, of course, think your estate planning team should start with Meyer & Spencer, PC. As your estate planning attorney, we will be responsible for the drafting of your estate planning documents such as your Will, Revocable Living Trust, Power of Attorney, etc. and making sure your estate plan will meet all of your objectives.

A solid estate planning team would also include your financial advisor, banker and accountant. Financial advisors fall into many different categories. The most common is the Series 7 registered representative, commonly known as a stockbroker. Most brokerage firms now call them “financial consultants,” “account executives,” or “investment representatives.” These financial consultants can offer a wide variety of investment products from stocks and bonds to annuities and insurance depending on which licenses they hold. However, in many cases, the financial consultant’s area of expertise will be in the stock market. A good financial consultant will be able to build a diversified portfolio for you depending on your age and your investment objectives.

Another type of financial advisor is the insurance planner most commonly referred to as “financial planners.” Most financial planners have the licensing and ability to trade stocks and bonds; however, their focus is usually different. It is not unusual for an insurance planner to work as part of the estate planning team with a stockbroker to fill in the gaps of your investment portfolio. While a stockbroker may manage your investment account on a five to ten year horizon, insurance planners typically look farther out on the horizon. Insurance Planners can use life insurance, annuities and other investment vehicles to increase your net worth and protect your assets after your death. Insurance planners will also be able to provide disability insurance to ensure that your family’s future will be secure in the event you are disabled and no longer able to work. If you own your own business, an insurance planner would be the proper person with whom to consult when it comes to business succession planning. Whether you sell your business at death, upon disability or at retirement, it is imperative to have a business succession plan in place.

Your banker may be able to provide some of the products that your stockbroker or Insurance Planner provides all under the same roof. This depends on the bank and the experience level of the Financial Advisors working at the bank. Most banks typically have Trust Departments where professional trustees are used to manage trust assets. This is particularly important if you are leaving assets to a disabled child or if you have an estate that is too complex to be properly managed by other family members.

Your accountants round out the Estate Planning Team. Unlike the other financial professionals who can sell investment and insurance products, your accountant’s role is much different. Your accountant will help you analyze your assets and providing insight on the tax ramifications of your various holdings. Your accountant can be extremely helpful in reviewing IRAs and deferred compensation plans. Your accountant can offer guidance to the other members of the estate planning team as to how to best protect these assets.

Regardless of your net worth, it is important that you have experienced and reliable estate planning team working for you. It is also important that your advisors work together so that everyone is aware of what the other advisors are doing. Teamwork and planning are the key components to having a well-rounded all inclusive estate plan.

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