Step 4: Choose Advisors

You will need to choose several advisors. Some of the advisors will be professionals and some will be personal. Think of this step as developing a team of talented players who will help you find the way to reach your goals for your family's well-being. Your team could include:

Make a list of your advisors (Word: 101 KB) with their name, phone number, email and address.


An attorney

  • Ask your friends, accountant, banker, and/or financial planner for suggestions.
  • After collecting at least three names, make an appointment with each attorney.
  • Ask about their background and experience.
  • Are you able to communicate clearly with each attorney?
  • Discuss fees. Does the attorney charge by the hour, a flat flee, or a percentage of the estate?
  • After your initial visits with the three attorneys, consider how comfortable you would be discussing your situation with the person.
  • Would your spouse or children be comfortable working with this person when you are gone?
  • Ask the attorney how long it would take him or her to complete the process.

Resources

For information on referral services, go to the American Bar Association website.

Another resource for referrals is the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). ACTEC Fellows are selected on the basis of professional reputation and ability in the fields of trusts and estates and for having made substantial contributions through lecturing, writing, teaching, and bar activities.

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Financial Planner

A financial planner will help you to clarify your objectives and suggest alternatives that should be discussed with your estate planning attorney. The financial planning process consists of six steps:

  1. Establishing and defining the client-planner relationship.
  2. Gathering client data, including goals.
  3. Analyzing and evaluating financial status.
  4. Developing and presenting recommendations and/or alternatives.
  5. Implementing the financial planning recommendations.
  6. Monitoring the recommendations.

Resources

One resource for selecting a financial planner is the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards website. Another resource is the Financial Planning Association. At that site, you cna find a CFP™ Professional by selecting a 'Find a Planner'.

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Executor or Personal Representative

  • An executor makes sure that your wishes are carried out and manages your property until the estate is passed on to your heirs.
  • You need to have confidence in the person and know that he or she can be trusted to carry out your wishes.
  • According to Steve Weisman, an alder law attorney, two other important qualities for an executor are knowledge of your family and common sense.
  • A personal representative is entitled to receive a fee for services. Personal representatives often waive their fee for a family member or good friend. Discuss in advance whether your personal representative will expect to be paid.

Resources

This is a Metropolitan Life publication about making a will. It has a good explanation of what executors do.

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Trustee

  • A trustee is responsible for the prudent management of a trust's assets in a way to generate income for the beneficiaries and to continue to grow capital.
  • He or she must follow state and federal regulations that apply to the trust.
  • Desirable qualities for a trustee are investment expertise, integrity, judgment, and the ability to get along with family members.

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Guardian

  • A guardianship specifies who will have physical custody of your children.
  • The first choice for a guardian could be the surviving parent unless death, divorce, or other situations make that choice impossible or undesirable.
  • The second choice is a loving member of your immediate family or a loving friend.
  • You may want to name a Conservator to handle the decisions about money for the children in addition to the person (Guardian) who has physical custody of the children.

Resources

Deciding on a guardian for children is often a challenge for parents. Ric Edelman, a financial planner, has developed a list of questions to help parents choose a guardian.

For more information about providing for children, see Estate Planning for Families with Minor Children
(Source: Montana State University Extension, PDF: 242 KB).

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Others

Durable power of attorney

  • This is a person you name to be your representative to perform certain actions if you become unable to manage your affairs. For example, the power of attorney could pay bills, sell securities, or make major financial decisions on your behalf.
  • Choose someone you trust completely as your power of attorney.

Health care power of attorney

  • This is a person you appoint as a representative to act on your behalf in matters affecting health care, including consenting to health care procedures in the event of your incompetency or incapacity.
  • This representative's powers do not become effective until you become incapable of consenting to health care.
  • This representative needs to know and understand your wishes.

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Resources