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Does Estate Planning Include Financial Planning, and Should Your Estate Planning Attorney Also Be a Financial Planner? 

financial planning When you go through the legal process of Estate Planning, this includes you deciding: (1) who you want to receive any real estate, savings/investments, tangible personal property, and other assets of yours after your death; (2) who you want to put in control of making decisions and handling your legal and financial affairs after your death, and during lifetime if you become incapacitated; (3) whether you want to avoid the time, expense, and complexities of after-death probate and lifetime probate; (4) who to name as guardian(s) to raise your children if you die when you have children still under the age of 18; (5) and minimizing or avoiding gift tax and/or estate tax for extremely wealthy families.  

Estate Planning attorneys help their clients by preparing legal documents such as wills, Living Trust, beneficiary designations, powers of attorney, charitable trusts and life insurance trusts, and much more. Good Estate Planning attorneys also want to ensure their clients have appropriate disability insurance, life insurance, and long-term care insurance in place, as these types of insurance are often an integral part of a good estate plan but are completely ignored by many Estate Planning attorneys. 

Estate Planning is done by attorneys who have graduated college, attended three years of law school, and passed at least one very rigorous state Bar Exam. Financial planners and insurance planners often have no legal training and may not even be college graduates. However, Estate Planning frequently involves financial planning and insurance planning. In fact, the world of “Estate Planning” sometimes gets confusing for consumers because over the past couple of decades, many financial planners and insurance planners who are not attorneys have taken to calling themselves “estate planners,” and there are even national certification providers that will certify financial planners and insurance planners as being certified in the field of estate planning.” For example, here’s an Investopedia article that explains how financial planners can get certified to be “estate planners.” However, the Certified Financial Planner® Board of Standards properly recognizes that estate planners are attorneys, stating: “Estate planning is the legal planning that helps you control who will inherit your money and property, and who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so yourself. Key documents include beneficiary designation forms, a will, health-care proxy, durable power of attorney, and sometimes, a trust.”  

Given the overlapping legal, financial, and insurance elements of Estate Planning, it is almost always wise for you to use an attorney, a financial planner, and an insurance agent when it comes to doing comprehensive estate planning. And all three of these professional members of your Estate Planning team should meet with you together at some point to make sure that everyone is on the same page. But maybe you don’t want to use three different people or don’t have the time to find three different experts in Estate Planning, financial planning, and insurance planning. Maybe you have already met with these three different types of planners, but you don’t know how to get them all working together to be on the same page, all serving your interests in a coordinated way. For these reasons, are you perhaps best served by using an Estate Planning attorney who is also a financial planner and insurance planner, so you only need to work with one expert team instead of three separate planning teams?  

How Can the Added Expertise of a Financial Planner Help You with Estate Planning? 

If you are still working, traditional financial planning focuses on your long-term financial goals, which usually involves accumulating as much wealth as possible. It often also includes managing that wealth for you to help it grow as much as possible. For seniors, financial planning usually focuses on retirement planning, which typically involves not just growing your wealth but also protecting your wealth from potentially disastrous downturns in the market, which can have a much greater impact on seniors who may not have a long enough time to recoup the wealth lost during a “down” market. Good financial planning and retirement planning also include obtaining disability insurance, life insurance, and long-term care insurance, though many financial planners do not provide any type of insurance offerings, instead referring you to someone who is only licensed as an insurance agent and does not have your full financial and legal affairs in mind.  

Working with an Estate Planning Attorney Who Is Also a Financial Planner and Insurance Planner 

Besides being a Certified Elder Law Attorney, Evan Farr is also an experienced financial advisor through his affiliation as a Solicitor with Protection Point Advisors, and he is also an experienced insurance planner through his own insurance company, Lifecare Financial Services, LLC.  As an Estate Planning attorney who is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney, financial planner, and insurance planner, Evan Farr’s goal is to help you secure your legal and financial future through proper legal documents, proper investments, and appropriate disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and life insurance. You may also wish to leave an inheritance for your children and/or grandchildren, and this can be an important goal in Estate Planning. 

Financial advisors are often an invaluable resource during the Estate Planning process. Many clients who come to us already have a financial planner and insurance agent, and we are of course happy to work with your existing advisors. Our legal expertise can help you plan ahead, protect your estate, and provide for your loved ones. With the help of your financial advisor and insurance professional, our Estate Planning process can help you in the following critical ways: 

  • Determining how much to leave loved ones: A knowledgeable Estate Planning lawyer and a financial advisor can help you create a comprehensive plan that ensures the distribution of your estate to selected individuals. The lawyer and advisor will work with you to determine how you handle money, real estate, and even sentimental items.  
  • Ensuring Your Family Is Financially Cared For: Life is unpredictable. Even if you are young and healthy, meeting with an estate planner and financial advisor is a prudent choice. Your estate planner and financial advisor can ensure that you have the necessary insurance needed to protect your loved ones in case of a tragedy. For example, your estate planner and financial advisor can assist you with choosing the best life insurance policy for your needs, such as a hybrid policy, and can determine how much of a death benefit your family will need. Your estate planner and financial advisor can also help you choose which insurance riders to add to your policy, such as long-term care coverage or accelerated death benefits. 
  • Indicating Specific Intentions for How to Use Your Money: If you pass away and leave money to a particular loved one, you may have specific intentions for how the recipient should use that money. For example, you may leave money to care for a disabled relative’s medical expenses, cover the cost of tuition for a child, or even for your pet’s care after your death. By working with an estate planner and financial advisor, you can create a trust so the funds are used only for its intended purposes, and to help fulfill your intentions. 
  • Leaving a Bequest to a Charitable Organization: If you’d like to leave a portion of your estate to a charitable organization, your Estate Planning attorney and financial advisor can provide advice on what type of donation will best benefit the organization. For example, you can leave a certain amount of cash or a percentage of your estate to charity, or you can create a charitable gift annuity or donor-advised fund that pays out a specified amount every year. 
  • For those who are charitably inclined, it’s important to keep Medicaid eligibility requirements in mind. This is especially important for those who may need nursing home care within the next five to ten years. Elder Law attorneys who are also Estate Planning attorneys and financial advisors know all of the rules of charitable giving and Medicaid eligibility, including: 
  • Five-year rule: Medicaid presumes that all gifts made in the five years prior to filing for Medicaid were made in contemplation of applying for Medicaid. Individuals seeking eligibility for long-term care Medicaid benefits must disclose all gifts made by the individual or his or her spouse within the prior five years. 
  • Small gifts: If you have a history of giving small weekly or monthly gifts to a charity, some Medicaid agencies will not construe those to be disqualifying gifts. For instance, in Virginia, these types of regular gifts are not penalized so long as they are under $4,000 per year, and there was a regular pattern of making these gifts for at least three years prior to applying for Medicaid. For more details about this, please see our resource page, “Medicaid: The Perils of Gifting FAQ.” 
  • Planning Ahead for the Unexpected: As we age, we sometimes need help managing our finances, so it’s essential to plan ahead. Who will manage your bills if you are hospitalized and can’t do it yourself? Who will handle your finances when you can no longer do so? Who will make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to? Take action today to create your Incapacity Planning and Estate Planning documents with an experienced Estate Planning attorney and consider working with an Estate Planning attorney such as Evan Farr, who is also a financial planner and insurance advisor, to help ensure legal and financial peace of mind in the future. 

Estate Planning Is an Essential Part of Financial Planning (and vice versa) 

Estate Planning is one of the most loving things you can do for your family and friends. It’s a critical part of financial planning, and it ensures that your loved ones are provided for and that your estate gets divided according to your wishes. 

Working with an Estate Planning attorney who is also a financial advisor and insurance agent can help you complete the process faster and in a more coordinated and efficient manner. Meeting with an experienced financial advisor and life insurance planner who is also an Estate Planning attorney will help you to better plan for all of your future life needs, including considerations such as health, family, caregiving, long-term care costs, and finances in addition to traditional estate planning.  

The Farr Law Firm Helps Protect Our Clients’ Assets and Quality of Life 

It is important to protect yourself, your quality of life, and your golden years with Estate Planning, long-term care planning, financial planning, and insurance advice. If you or a loved one has not done this type of planning (or not had your planning reviewed in the past several years), please call us to make an appointment: 

Fairfax Estate Planning and Financial Planning: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law and Retirement Planning: 540-479-1435
Maryland Estate and Financial Planner: 301-519-8041
DC Estate Planner and Financial Advisor: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.