Estate Planning Experts: Atlanta
Protecting Your Legacy and Peace of Mind
Part 3 of 3
Argent Trust is proud to have been selected in the 2016 edition of “Estate Planning Experts”. The book’s author, Shane Smith, Esq, is an Atlanta attorney that wanted to share information that would help families avoid the financial and non-financial problems that frequently occur when estate planning issues have not been discussed fully, understood and implemented.
Argent Trust’s CEO Howard Safer, was requested to share his thoughts on the many advantages of using trusts for the benefit of better estate planning results. The author discovered Argent Trust’s many advantages of having a Tennessee Chartered fiduciary doing business in Atlanta, Georgia and 9 other southern states.
Shane: Who is an ideal client for you?
Howard: Really, anyone with an estate or total net worth typically over the million dollar range is ideal for beginning the process. Anyone with $50,000, $200,000, $300,000 has certain issues, and that’s worth a conversation. We have those conversations and we give people choices. It may be appropriate just to get some professional somewhere to glance at their data. But as you get to the seven-figure realm, you’re more likely to want to give more thought to a plan, one that would be other than just splitting asset.
Each state is a little bit different. Georgia’s taxes are different from Tennessee or New Jerseys or Connecticut. You have to be savvy. So again, at the million-dollar level, you can have a taxable estate in certain states. In other states, you can have five million and not have estate taxes.
As you get beyond $5,450,000 in 2016 there are federal estate taxes. Facing the federal estate tax creates opportunities to provide service. There is a wide array of strategies that one can do to benefit clients and help them achieve their goals.
S: What is the first step in that plan if you are engaged?
H: I would suggest a phone conversation or meeting to encourage a couple to begin soul-searching. In today’s environment, one can Google the topic, dig a little bit deeper and give some forethought to their goals. Most people Google almost everything at this point in time. So I think that’s very easy and very appropriate. Most law firms have sites. There is a vast array of free information to get some of a basis. Then one could go to the local bookstore. You can buy something inexpensive and begin to get more background.
After you’ve done some self study, you can be more comfortable that you’re addressing key issues. Determining who will be the guardian of your children usually would be a high priority. Are you going to leave monies in trust for children or grandchildren? Who should have your power of attorney? Who should coordinate your plans? All of those types of issues should be discussed.
The more you can think through those topics, the better prepared you will be when you meet with a professional. Attorneys and CPAs are typically going to bill for their time on an hourly basis. Many investment professionals will not charge for an initial meeting, but again they may not have additional planning credentials or knowledge. You will likely want to have both a CPA and an attorney help formulate and implement parts of your plan.
So every case is different, but those are among the choices people have. In a perfect world, one would address all of these issues well in advance of an immediate need. More typically, a family hears that Aunt Jane has been diagnosed with serious cancer and everybody is concerned. Suddenly everyone wants to know answers to many questions. In other cases the dad dies even though he was in good health and now nobody knows what to do or where to go. There is an endless list of events that are unfortunate and the better approach is to get ahead of the curve. You can do a lot of things that make it so much easier down the road. One important step is to consolidate many of the numerous investment accounts that are here, there, and everywhere. A couple might have 20 different accounts. Consolidating those accounts will give others a better handle on what resources are available. Once you’ve made your way up the financial success ladder, it makes sense to reevaluate. Steps include looking at paying off debt, analyzing assets and making various changes in the investment portfolio for the future. It is always important to periodically pull all this information together, take inventory, and talk to someone that can help.
For a copy of the book and a complimentary consultation, please call 615.385.2345 or your local Argent Trust professional.