August 30, 2018 | Article

As you may have seen in the news recently, beloved R&B and soul singer Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16 and left no will or estate plan, which could potentially expose her heirs to considerable estate taxes. Her estate is estimated to be worth $80 million.

According to a recent survey from, a senior care and assisted living information provider, only 42% of U.S. adults have estate planning documents in place. That figure drops to 36% for adults with children under the age of 18.

Death, inheritance and estate planning are not pleasant topics, but it’s a conversation every financial planner should have with clients ─ and the sooner it happens the better. While the estate planning attorney will do the heavy lifting, financial advisors are still a crucial part of the overall estate plan, which includes the management of assets over a lifetime so that both retirement and legacy goals can be achieved.

You can help clients assess whether an estate plan crafted by an attorney lines up with their financial goals. This will help you determine whether the estate plan conflicts with your client’s wishes, or whether current titling and beneficiaries listed on the assets they own conflict with the estate plan. It is imperative that wishes and intentions are carefully documented, and assets accurately titled so their legacy they have worked hard to earn and grow transfers to the appropriate heirs at the appropriate time.

Of course, estate planning is not a “one-and-done” activity. The estate plan is intended to work over the course of many years, and as life changes, so should the plan. Any time a major life-changing event occurs, the estate plan should be reviewed to see if it needs to be updated to reflect the event. Tracking the funding of trusts and verifying assets are aligned are also key steps in a successful estate plan.

By working closely with your clients and their attorneys during the estate planning process, you will put them in a better position to make informed financial decisions and fulfill the plans they have in place. When was the last time you reviewed your clients’ wills and trusts with them?

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