Estate Planning for the 72% — It’s Incomplete


Written by: Jon McGraw

Serious illness or death of a parent, spouse or close friend often serves as a wake up call when it comes to Estate Planning. Considering a 2013 survey revealed 72 percent of wealthy investors did not have complete estate plans, it is important to realize the odds are stacked against those who will serves as caretakers, executors or successor trustees.

Tom felt reasonably confident that, after his father died, his mother had updated all of her end-of-life documents. They hadn’t had a detailed discussion about the matter; he was relying on her habit of being organized.

The thoroughness of her plans was put to the test when she suffered a serious health setback. Although many of the important documents, such as an advanced directive, had been updated, they were not immediately accessible. Fortunately Tom was able to work around that, but it reinforced the need for more planning and preparation.

Already a Buttonwood client, Tom approached the team to see what the “Family CFO” could do to ensure information and documentation was available, as well as fill any gap that might exist in his mother’s estate plan and how it could affect his own planning.

  • We began by helping him gather all of his mother’s current estate plan documents, just as we had done for Tom. This included reaching out to a couple of professionals his mother already relied upon.
  • As we had done for Tom, we started a file to maintain a set of his mother’s documents so they are readily accessible the next time they are called for. These are kept updated as part of the annual review process for each client.
  • Once the documents were compiled, the team looked for missing elements and, when appropriate, suggested professional assistance from a roster of trusted estate planning attorneys. For instance, we discovered the need for a trust to avoid probate for some assets where simple ownership or beneficiary designations would not have been adequate.
  • We also discovered that Tom’s mother had “digital assets” in the form of a Facebook page, email address and digital photographs. As a result, Tom learned he would need to address the increasingly important topic of “digital assets” in his mother’s estate plan to protect what might become her digital legacy.
  • With known issues now on the table, Tom began a series of conversations with his mother to make sure he understood her intent and any other end-of-life instructions she may have. This, according to Tom, brought them closer than ever.

For Tom and his mother, the “Family CFO” outcome is the comfort of knowing their estate plans are complete and in sync. If you’d like to learn more about what Buttonwood’s Family CFO services could mean to you, please contact John Jespersen to set a strategy appointment at 816-285-9000 or by clicking HERE.

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