Comprehensive estate and financial plans are not just for the wealthy. Anyone who cares for a person or cause and who wants to provide for the person or cause after they die can benefit from such plans. Along with comprehensive estate and financial plans comes a team to help you create, manage, and support those plans. This team includes your estate planning attorney, financial advisor, certified public accountant, insurance agent, and even your spiritual advisor. They work together to make sure that you are protected during your lifetime and that your loved ones and the causes you support are taken care of after your passing.
Part of that protection includes keeping an eye out for those who may want to take financial advantage of you. The National Council on Aging estimates that the annual cost of financial abuse and fraud perpetrated on older Americans ranges from $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion (National Council on Aging, Get the Facts on Elder Abuse; Feb. 23, 2021, https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse). As part of your financial and estate planning team, we are committed to protecting you from being a statistic.
- Your team keeps a watchful eye on your accounts. When you hire a financial advisor, you are hiring a trusted advisor to manage your money, provide helpful advice, and protect your legacy. Your financial advisor is in an ideal position to monitor your accounts for suspicious activity and alert you if something does not look right. In fact, some investment firms have implemented the rules issued by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) to mitigate problems. One rule is to have a customer provide contact information for a trusted person who can serve as a resource if the advisor suspects financial abuse (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Rule 4512, Customer Account Information, https://www.finra.org/rules-guidance/rulebooks/finra-rules/4512). Another rule allows the investment firm to place a temporary hold on the disbursement of funds if the firm believes that financial exploitation is happening or being attempted (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Rule 2165, Financial Exploitation of Specified Audits, https://www.finra.org/rules-guidance/rulebooks/finra-rules/2165).
- Your team makes sure your documents are properly executed. Your attorney is the trusted advisor tasked with making sure that your wishes are accurately and legally documented. We can also suggest additional safeguards for your plan if you are concerned about being taken advantage of, such as appointing a corporate trustee instead of a family member or friend, so you know there is proper oversight of your trust. We can also include roles in your estate plan to ensure that your trustee is following the instructions in your estate plan.
- Your team scrutinizes changes made to your estate-planning documents and beneficiary designations. Many changes can occur over the life of your financial and estate plan, and we want to make sure that any changes to your estate planning documents or beneficiary designations are free from an opportunistic loved one’s undue influence. Because you are the client, as long as you are able to make decisions for yourself, we will listen to the changes you want to make. However, if you are unable to make decisions for yourself, we want to make sure that your documents are not changed. Because your ability to make your own decisions may not be 100 percent clear, we will act cautiously if we believe something is wrong.
- Your team maintains historic knowledge of your income and expenses. If you have worked with your certified public accountant or tax preparer for multiple years, they will more than likely have a good idea about how much income you have and what your expenses are. Because you probably meet with this person at least once a year, they may be able to spot a problem in your spending before it becomes too large.
- Your team may also offer bookkeeping services. As many people get older, they do not want to be bothered with the task of balancing a checkbook or paying their bills, especially if they were previously married and their spouse was in charge of these tasks. There are trusted advisors who offer bookkeeping services to their clients to help combat the potential for financial abuse. Hiring a professional to pay your bills can ensure that the bills get paid and that someone else is monitoring your income and expenses to make sure that all your obligations, and not someone else’s personal desires, are being met.
Your financial and estate planning team is here to protect you. As you enter your golden years, you can rest assured that you have a team of people watching out for you if you find yourself in a vulnerable position. If you are interested in learning more about the safeguards we can put in place to protect you as you age, call us today.