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Accountants, Financial Advisors and Estate Planning

By February 3, 2013Estate Planning

I was visiting my dentist the other day, and while I was there, I asked him about some pain I was having in my ankle.  He told me that what I needed to do was “walk it off,” and I should feel better in a few days.  Now that my ankle is the size of a grapefruit, I’m wondering if his advice was flawed…

Obviously, I made up that story.  Hopefully, very few people, if any, would look for orthopedic advice from their dentist (no matter how smart their dentist may be).

Although such an occurrence would be strange, it is happening all the time in another context.  Many people are going to their accountants and/or financial advisors to get legal advice.  In fact, they might not even realize that is what they are actually doing.

Our attorneys are well versed in all aspects of estate planning, and we provide you with correct and updated information and instructions necessary to carry out your estate plan.  However, some clients, in talking with their accountants and financial advisors, get advice to take actions that jeopardize their estate plans.  This is similar to going to your dentist to get advice on an ankle injury!

Accountants and financial advisors play an important role in the estates of clients, and most perform their functions well.  But planning an estate is a complex process that requires an in-depth understanding of state and federal tax, property, asset protection and health care laws, as well as how the individual client’s goals and concerns are accommodated by the laws and planning strategies.  Accountants and financial advisors do not have, nor should they be expected to have, the full picture in creating and maintaining an estate plan.  Therefore, their advice on legal matters regarding your estate plan will not be adequate and will likely have a negative affect on your plan.

The two biggest areas in which we are seeing problems are beneficiary designations for life insurance policies and retirement plans.  Generally, the beneficiary on your life insurance should be your trust.  For a married couple, the beneficiary designation on a retirement account should be spouse primary and trust contingent.  For a single person, the trust should be the beneficiary of both life insurance and your retirement accounts.

Just as you wouldn’t enlist your dentist’s aid for orthopedic matters, please be careful of any legal advice you might receive from your accountant or financial advisor concerning your estate plan.  If any instructions or suggestions we have given are ever unclear to you, please contact us at 888.222.1328.  We are always available to answer your estate planning questions.

Jim Plitz, Attorney, Phoenix, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, LawyerContributed by MH Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney James P. Plitz.

Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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