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Basics of Estate Planning

Planning for your future? You don’t have to do it alone. We talked to wealth management expert Russell Sugg to understand, at a high level, how to think about an estate plan.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning, at the highest level, is about protecting your assets and often, passing those assets on to the next generation.

How would you help a client get started?

Contrary to what some people might imagine, we don’t start with numbers and charts. First, we need to get to know the client personally because we make a personalized estate plan for every client. We need to know what their current financial needs are and what they anticipate their needs will be in the future.

There are a lot of factors to consider: age, how much longer a person expects to work, their family situation, their investment tolerance. At a deep level, it’s really about understanding someone’s goals, hopes, and dreams.

It sounds like this is something people need to take some ownership over.

The client has to be involved—it’s all about them and not something that they can get up and walk away from completely.

This also means we’re selective about our customers because we’re looking to be their trusted partner in planning their future.

Can you describe that partnership a bit more?

We usually don’t just manage money. We provide additional value and expertise.

You can think of estate planning as an interlocking puzzle—insurance, taxes, investments—it’s a comprehensive picture. Planning or managing it piecemeal usually doesn’t work.

That’s why we take a multi-disciplinary approach based on the client’s time horizon. And you can’t just be driven by the markets either; they come and go. Good estate planning should account for market and other risk as much as possible.

What are the most common challenges you see?

For clients who are retired or will be soon, IRA distributions and descendent planning are very important. Younger clients can be more concerned with building sufficient wealth.

My overall advice to those considering an estate plan: find a trusted advisor and take a comprehensive approach.

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