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Estate Planning Process


For clients who require more advanced planning, our process is quite a bit different. Advanced Planning is usually for those who are facing a Federal Estate Tax, even after a Living Trust is implemented (and sometimes one or more Life Insurance Trusts).

In these cases, the nature and extent of the planning process is custom-tailored to suit the needs of the individual client. Typically, the process includes the following steps:
  • Preliminary Analysis: In this initial phase of representation, most clients want to develop their understanding of the different methods of reducing or eliminating the Federal Estate Tax. We perform a basic analysis of the client's current situation and illustrate some possible solutions to determine whether we should move forward with the next level of detailed analysis.
     
  • Design Blueprinting: The purpose of this phase of Advanced Planning is where we will perform a detailed analysis of the use and application of particular legal tools and strategies. Often, more than one combination of strategies will be illustrated, before settling on the final design. In this phase, detailed cash-flow analysis, income tax projections and estate tax results are illustrated. We call this the blueprinting stage, because it is kind of like working with an architect to design a custom home. Nobody would want to start building a custom house before making sure it was going to meet all their needs, using the right materials and within an acceptable construction budget. Although we typically act as the estate plan "architect," each of the client's important financial and tax advisors is always welcomed and encouraged to participate in the process.
     
  • Review (and Modification) of the Blueprint: Once the estate plan blueprint is in draft form, we review each of the various elements in detail. We want to make sure that the client fully understands and appreciates the long-term effects of utilizing the various planning strategies. We also want to make sure the client's CPA, financial advisor and all other key advisors are in agreement that the chosen combination of tools should be implemented. Frequently, there are final modifications made at this point, before implementation is begun.
     
  • Implementation: Once the blueprint has been finalized and all advisors are in agreement, a schedule is set for implementing the advanced plan. Many of the individual tools and techniques require time to fully implement. We create a timeline for the orderly creation and implementation of the estate planning tools and a budget for the entire project.
     
  • Maintenance: Advanced estate plans require upkeep! We recommend that clients consider this aspect of estate and tax planning prior to commencement of the project. Regular review and maintenance should be supervised by one or more members of the client's advisory team. Depending upon the nature of the plan elements, this supervision may be properly handled by the client's CPA. If we perform some or all of the annual review and maintenance services, we do so on an annual retainer basis.