As we embark on the greatest transfer of wealth over the next decade, many of your clients will be transitioning wealth to others in the family— it could be a spouse or partner, other siblings, children, or even friends.
As a Wealth Advisor, you have spent many years delivering for your clients. You've forged a relationship by listening and understanding their family's unique needs, executed on planning strategies to preserve and grow their wealth, while consistently providing proactive solutions to meet their changing needs. The matriarch/patriarch of the family has 100% confidence in you and considers you a trusted advisor— you have earned this esteemed status.
However, as you start working with the next generation or a spouse where you are beginning that relationship, that “trusted advisor” status has not been established yet. Some of these family members you have previously met and built their confidence in you, while there are others you have not met yet.
Quick Quiz: Did you know that almost 90% of heirs do not consider their parents’ advisor after receiving an inheritance?
Are you ready to navigate this conversation with your clients & their family members?
In planning for this “great wealth transfer” there are some easy learning opportunities to help establish you as a trusted advisor with the next generation who you hope will be future clients. Welcome to a brief 3-part article series called - Educate Yourself! Invest a few minutes to learn a few tips to help you plan effectively for the transfer of wealth to the next generation. This first article will help you “step up your game” on being more knowledgeable about Estate Settlement & Probate processes.
Estate Settlement/Probate 101
Although your day-to-day job may not require you to be “hands on '' in helping to settle an estate when a client passes away, many times the family member (or Executor) may lean on you for advice……….. or to listen for some “words of wisdom” during a difficult time. Having some “high level” knowledge around the estate settlement and/or probate process, may paint you under a “guiding light” that instills confidence in your client’s family. As a result, this might impress them and help them decide if their inheritance stays with you and your firm, or is withdrawn to another provider.
So, what is the first step in becoming familiar with the estate settlement process?
1. Get up to speed on the estate settlement & probate process (high level perspective)
What is probate and how does it work? Probate is the formal legal process of validating a deceased individual’s wishes, assessing any applicable death taxes and then ensuring rightful heirs and beneficiaries are transferred ownership of entitled assets and property.
For more information on how the end to end process works, check out our comprehensive guide explaining What is Probate?
2. Familiarize yourself with the key terms you will hear most often
It is easy to get lost in the “legal jargon” that the probate laws use. Although the words themselves can be intimidating just looking at them, they often mean simple things and are not as complicated as you think.
- Executor or Executrix - The person appointed to manage a deceased person’s estate and distribute his/her assets in accordance with a will. Other related terms are Personal Representative and other related terms in Canada are Liquidator and Trustees.
- Last Will & Testament - A legally binding document that details what to do with someone’s belongings when they pass.
- Letters Testamentary - Legal document from probate court that gives an executor the right to access the deceased’s accounts and belongings. Nowadays, this is often a PDF of a form you’d attach to an email along with a copy of the death certificate and sometimes your ID to prove that you are the person in charge of the decedent’s estate.
- Letters Administration - Same as letters testamentary except this is the name for when the person didn’t have a will. The exact term can also vary depending on state.
- Beneficiaries - People listed in a will as recipients of an estate’s assets.
- Intestate - Dying without a will (testate is dying with a will).
- Petition for probate - The first form you fill out to initiate probate / appoint an executor.
These are just a few. To review a full glossary of probate terms (A-Z) as a reference, check out our entire Executor's Glossary
3. Find your role and provide advice!
Last but not least, you (as a wealth advisor) play a pivotal role in both the planning of a wealth transfer as well as the execution when resolutions are needed.
A wealth advisor can wear many hats during the probate process.
A few examples include:
- Assisting with the proper titling of assets and reviewing beneficiaries
- Educating the difference of qualified vs. non-qualified assets to the future generation (and how this impacts them during the probate process 🙂)
- Helping with account consolidation and the transfer process to a new name at your organization
Although you may not be ready to change careers to be a qualified Executor, educating yourself on the process and terminology can go a long way and potentially make a difference for how much a client’s family leans on you in the future. Get prepared and also aligning yourself with a local expert to bounce things off of on occasion— might even be worth a lunch once every few months!
Want to learn more about how Atticus helps during the estate settlement process?
Atticus is a fintech company committed to empowering families through the unavoidable process of bringing a close to the financial life of a loved one. Our groundbreaking probate & estate settlement product is a comprehensive, all-in-one platform that combines personalized guidance with intuitive, easy-to-use tools allowing families and their advisors to save time and money by navigating the probate, estate settlement and inheritance process together.
Click here learn more about Atticus to understand how we have helped thousands of families and advisors settle their estates with confidence.