Improving Financial Awareness and Literacy – Part 2

October 18, 2018  |  

Improving Financial Awareness and Literacy – Part 2

Key Takeaways:

  • Estate planning is not a one-and-done task—it’s an ongoing exercise. Make sure your will and estate plan is current, especially as life circumstances change.
  • The better organized you before meeting your attorney, the more you can save in billable hours.
  • Do your executors and trustees know where your key financial information is kept?

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed the importance of gathering your personal and financial information, setting your personal goals and seeking out the right attorney. Here, we’ll discuss how to make the most out of meetings with estate planners, signing documents, and taking care of title and beneficiary designations. We’ll pick up here where Part 1 left off:

4.  Make the most of your meeting

Bring your notes and the information from Part 1 when you meet with an attorney. This could save one to five hours (or more) of billable time. Discuss your overall goals, and see how they can be met. Ask your attorney about the main documents that need to be prepared:

  • Will
  • Living trust
  • Durable power of attorney for asset management
  • Advance health care directive or durable power of attorney for health care
  • Charitable trusts (if appropriate)

Before leaving the attorney’s office, if you are satisfied, request an engagement letter quoting the fee for services and a brief summary of the estate plan—written in terms you can understand—to serve as a record of the decisions made. Confirm that you want to be taking advantage of all tax-saving possibilities—an individual can pass on assets federal estate and gift tax free worth $5.6 million; a couple can pass on $11.2 million of assets federal estate- and gift-tax-free, amounts that are indexed to inflation—and when feasible, avoiding probate. If you think your estate may be worth over $11 million and wish to totally avoid estate taxes for future generations, you may wish to explore dynasty trusts and asset protection trusts within states that have no rules against perpetuities.

5.  Review and sign documents

Have copies of draft documents sent to you for review and approval. Note questions and changes in red ink in the margins. Be specific. If you have an estate worth more than $1 million or a complex family situation, have a copy of your documents sent to your AEP, CPA, CFP/PFS, CFP, ChFC, CLU, trust officer or financial advisor for their input. Discuss questions and possible changes with your attorney. After you sign the documents, ask your attorney where they should be kept and what should be provided to family members, executors and trustees.

6.  Take care of title and beneficiary designations

Have the attorney make sure that titles on all assets and beneficiary designations, such as life insurance and retirement plans, are coordinated with the will and/or living trust.

7.  Estate planning is forever

  • Call your attorney about updating your plans at least every three years–or any time there are major changes in your personal situation due to births, deaths, marriage or divorce, or significant increases or decreases in the size of your estate.
  • Estate plan documents are technical and very dry; they do not communicate personal feelings. Consider drafting a personal letter to your spouse and family expressing your final thoughts and feelings in plain simple English.
  • It’s also important to keep key financial paperwork readily accessible and noted on a location sheet for those who will be dealing with their affairs when something happens to them.


Having an up-to-date will and estate plan is a very important financial obligation for all of us. Research shows that nearly half of adult Americans don’t have estate plans—that’s WAY too many. The National Financial Awareness Foundation—the folks behind making October National Estate Planning Awareness–month have lot of great free resources including My Estate Planning Location Sheet™ for your personal use.

If you or someone close to you is concerned about their lack of estate planning readiness, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to help.


Adviser is not licensed to provide and does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice to clients.  Advice of qualified counsel or accountant should be sought to address any specific situation requiring assistance from such licensed individuals.

About Patrick Melvin Jr.

Patrick D. Melvin Jr., is a Wealth Manager at Independence Advisors, LLC. Pat models client’s financial plans and works with the firm’s clients on financial planning areas such as retirement planning, investment planning and estate planning. CLICK HERE TO ASK PAT.
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