Estate Planning – Who Is On Your Team?

When you say “estate planning”, many people think of going to an attorney and having their Last Will and Testament prepared.  But, is this all that meets the definition of “estate planning”?  Oh no — far from it. 

First of all, the term “estate planning” is the production of documents far beyond a Will.  At a minimum, a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive/Living Will is prepared.  To those documents, there may be a Trust or two depending upon the situation. 

Next, the attorney is not the only party to be involved with the process. A financial advisor can be a very important member of your estate planning team.  Also, your tax preparer may be vital in helping to assist in your planning.  Each of these professionals knows you in a different way and, collaboratively, they can offer the best estate plan for you. 

You may be thinking, do all of these people need to be involved with my estate planning?  The attorney will be the professional responsible for drafting the documents.  In New Jersey, only an attorney is authorized to draft a Last Will and Testament for another individual.  But, the attorney won’t have your financial information and the details of the wealth you have accumulated.  Your tax preparer can assist with certain tax-related discussions.  Each of your team members is proficient in their particular area.  Collaboratively, they will be able to assist in implementing your wishes in the best possible way.  You may have a business to be considered.  You may have a certain situation within your family such as a disabled child or grandchild, or a child who may not have a stable marriage or may have financial problems.  Your financial advisor may have information regarding retirement-type accounts or insurance. 

Each of these team members will work in your best interest.  One of them alone would not necessarily have the whole picture of you, but together they can fit the puzzle pieces together to create the best estate plan for you.

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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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