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By Nsim Team
The first step to becoming an estate planner is determining whether or not you’re a good fit for this field. Does the following describe you?
• You’re business minded and empathetic
• You enjoy consulting people and directing their activities
• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to gathering information
• You’re interested in general investment, estate, financial, trust and taxation issues
Who is an Estate Planner?
As an estate planner, your first objective is to have a discussion with your client regarding their end-of-life needs, and the assets and debts that will make up their estate.
Since you're familiar with relevant federal and local laws, you'd then advise the client on how best to administer their estate.
When a client dies, it’s your duty to review the documents associated with their last will and testament, insurance policies, unpaid bills and any trust funds. You'd then be responsible for distributing property, paying debts and taxes, and administering any trust monies.
General Job Duties
Although the duties you would perform can vary from job to job, you would generally be responsible for the following:
• Studying the wills, trusts, business agreements, life insurance policies, government benefits and other legal instruments of clients
• Reviewing the assets and liabilities of an estate in order to determine if current insurance coverage is adequate financial protection for the estate
• Determining the value of the estate by calculating expenses, taxes and debts
• Maintaining current knowledge of relevant accounting and taxation laws
• Suggesting purchase of additional or new life insurance when analysis of estate indicates a need for meeting cash demands at death
• Liaising with family attorney to determine if any changes in the legal structure of the estate need to be made
Education Needed to Become an Estate Planner
To become an estate planner, you typically need an undergraduate degree in a field that involves a financial or estate planning component, such as accounting or finance.
Some employers may prefer that you have an advanced degree or a professional designation in one of these areas (such as a CA or CPA credential), or a degree in law.
Technical Skills Needed to Be Successful Estate Planner
In order to qualify as an estate planner, and succeed when you get there, you'll need to be able to demonstrate a certain set of skills, including:
• Knowledge of relevant estate, tax, trust, incapacity, business, family and charity law
• Legal drafting and interpretation skills
• Specialized knowledge of trust and related administration
• An understanding of how various types of insurance operate
Coursework in financial planning that's part of a degree or professional certification program will teach you the technical skills you’ll need!
Who Employs Estate Planners?
As an estate planner, you may be employed by a small estate and trust planning businesses, or be self-employed. Alternatively, you may be employed on a full-time basis or contract your services to larger firms and organizations such as:
• Trust and estate companies
• Banks and other lending institutions
• Stock brokerage firms
• Insurance agencies
• Legal firms
• Accounting firms
• Mutual fund companies
• Private financial planning companies
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