Estate Planning

Retiring? Here’s How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

Retiring? Here's How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

So you’ve decided to hang ‘em up – congratulations! Retirement is an extremely personal decision made for a multitude of reasons.

Some of our clients have been able to afford to retire for several years and have reached a point where the weekly grind isn’t as enjoyable as it once was. Probably dozens of thoughts are running through your head. What will life look like without work? How will I spend my days? Where do I/we want to travel? Do I want to work part-time or volunteer?

With so many emotions and thoughts churning, you might easily miss potentially good opportunities to really maximize your final year of full-time work. In this blog, I’ll touch on planning concepts you should consider to get the most “bang for your buck” as you close out your full-time career:

Maximizing Employer Retirement Plans (401k, 403b, etc.)

If you aren’t already doing so, consider maximizing your company retirement plan. If you are retiring mid-year, if appropriate, adjust your payroll deduction to make sure you are contributing the maximum ($25,000 for those over the age of 50 in 2019) by the time you retire. If monthly cash flow won’t allow for it, consider using money in a checking/savings or taxable account to supplement your cash flow so you can max out the plan. Making pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan is something you should consider.  

“Front-Load” Charitable Contributions

If you are charitably inclined and plan to make charitable gifts even into retirement, you might consider “front-loading” your donations. Think of it this way: If you are currently in the 24% tax bracket, and you will drop into the 12% bracket once retired, when will making a donation give you the most tax savings? The year you are in the higher bracket, of course! So if you donate $5,000/year to charity, consider making a $25,000 contribution (ideally with appreciated securities and possibly utilizing a Donor Advised Fund) while you are in the 24% bracket.

This strategy has become even more impactful given recent tax law reform and the increase in the standard deduction. (Click here to read more.) This would satisfy five years’ worth of donations and save you more on your taxes. As I always tell clients, the more money you can save on your tax bill by being efficient with your gifts, the less money in the IRS’s pocket and more for the organizations you care about!

Health Care

This is typically a retiree's largest expense. How will you and your family go about obtaining medical coverage upon retirement? Will you continue to receive benefits on your employer plan? Will you use COBRA insurance? Will you be age 65 soon and enroll in Medicare? Are you retiring young and need to obtain an individual plan until Medicare kicks in?

No matter what your game plan, make sure you talk to the experts and have a firm grip on the cost and steps you need to take so that you don’t lose coverage and your insurance is as affordable as possible. We have trusted resources to help guide clients with their health care options.  

Those are just a few of many things you should be thinking about prior to retirement. With so many moving parts, it really makes sense to have someone in your corner to help you navigate through these difficult, and often confusing, topics and decisions. Ideally, seek out the help of a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) to give you the comprehensive guidance you need and deserve!

Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and OnWallStreet.com.


Opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Generally, if you take a distribution from a 401k prior to age 59 ½, you may be subject to ordinary income tax and a 10% penalty on the amount that you withdraw, in addition to any relevant state income tax. Contributions to a Donor Advised Fund are irrevocable. Changes in tax laws or regulations may occur at any time and could substantially impact your situation. Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Monitor Your Savings Bonds Through Treasury Direct

Jeanette LoPiccolo Contributed by: Jeanette LoPiccolo, CRPC®

Monitor your savings bonds through Treasury Direct

Throughout the years, savings bonds have been popular gifts. Before college savings accounts became so popular, grandparents sometimes gave bonds for birthdays, encouraging their grandchildren to save for the future. Could you have any savings bonds lying around in files or locked up in a safety deposit box?

If you have bonds that you have not looked at in years, now may be the right time to bring them into the digital age with Treasury Direct.

Recently, the U.S. Treasury stopped issuing paper bonds to save costs. Instead, you can create an online account and monitor your bonds as you would an investment account. If you use Raymond James Client Access, you can create an external link to your savings bonds account. Then, you and your financial planner can track your bonds.

In addition to preventing your bonds from being forgotten (or tossed away in a Marie Kondo cleaning frenzy), here are a few good reasons to try the online account:

  • You can cash your electronic bonds, in full or in part, at any time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and move the funds to a savings or checking account that you specify. You don’t need to go to a financial institution, and there are no restrictions on the number of bonds or the value that can be cashed, once minimum requirements are met.

  • Online holdings and their current values can be viewed at any time.

  • When electronic bonds reach final maturity and are no longer earning interest, they will be automatically paid to a non-interest bearing account.

The process is fairly simple. Step 1 is to locate your savings bonds. Then visit https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/smartexchangeinfo.htm and scroll down to “How Do You Use SmartExchange?”. Follow the prompts and get started!

Jeanette LoPiccolo, CFP®, CRPC®, is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She is a 2018 Raymond James Outstanding Branch Professional, one of three recognized nationwide.


Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

A Dementia Diagnosis and Your Financial Plan

dementia diagnosis and your financial plan

The inevitable has happened. You or someone you love has received the dreaded diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or one of many related dementias. You feel like your world is in a tail spin; you don’t know which end is up, and you certainly don’t know where to start planning…especially from a financial perspective. What should you do?

First, discuss the diagnosis with your financial advisor. Communicate your fears and concerns, and ask for help to make sure that all of your financial “ducks” are in row.

You can check these things off the list now:

  • Make sure that important documents are in place assigning advocates who will handle health care and financial affairs when you (or your loved one) are unable to handle them. **Coordinate this with your estate planning attorney.

  • Also, make sure that beneficiaries and estate planning documents are updated to reflect current wishes.

  • From an organizational standpoint, this is a perfect time to make sure everything is organized, documented (see our Personal Financial Record Keeping Document for help), simplified as much as possible (think consolidating accounts held by multiple firms), and titled properly.

At some point, your financial advisor may want to help you look at additional retirement/financial independence scenarios that include long-term care expenses faced by those who have dementia/Alzheimer’s. This will give you the opportunity to look at the adjustments you may need to make immediately or in the near term.

As time goes on and costs increase, which may be a few months or years depending on disease progression, additional retirement distribution planning may both stretch available dollars and strategize tax efficiencies based on tax law at the time. For instance, in years with very high medical costs/deductions, it may make sense to take distributions from IRAs, so the medical deductions offset the taxable income from the distributions.

It is also extremely important to review all insurances (Long Term Care, life insurances with terminal illness or LTC riders, annuities with such riders, etc.) to understand how they work and how they may benefit you in the future.

Planning with your family

Aside from the purely financial considerations, it is critical to have a conversation with your family about your care (who, where, etc.), your money, your quality of life, and the overall plan for your last phase of life with your new diagnosis, so that everyone is on the same page, with a coordinated plan.

Everyone should know the available resources, the players, and your desires. Having helped families in these situations, I know those who work together and understand the desires of their loved one, no matter what the financial situation, are able to get through tough times and support their loved one much more successfully than those who don’t.

Above all, ask for help, from your advisors, from your family, from your friends and community supports (church, community groups, etc.). You can’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone. If you or someone you know is facing a dementia challenge and needs to plan, please let us know. We are here to help.

Sandra Adams, CFP®, CeFT™ is a Partner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and serves as a trusted source for national publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine, and Journal of Financial Planning.


Raymond James does not provide tax or legal services. Please discuss these matters with the appropriate professional.

Webinar in Review: The Big Four - Understanding Estate Documents

Tim Wyman Contributed by: Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD

Missed the webinar? Don’t worry, there’s a recording!

See the below time stamps to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • What is estate planning? (Minute 0:30)

  • Current Estate Tax Environment: (1:40)

  • Last Will & Testament: (5:20)

  • Revocable Living Trust (11:30)

  • Durable Power of Attorney- Finances/ Property (12:10)

  • Durable Power of Attorney- Healthcare (13:20)

  • Asset Titling & Beneficiary Designations (14:30)

  • Resources (15:50)

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and is a contributor to national media and publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), mentored many CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

Seven Summer Financial Planning Strategies

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It is summer time! So, if you get a few minutes in between all of the outdoor activities here are 7 quick financial planning strategies to review.  As always, if we can help tailor any of these to your personal circumstances feel free to reach out.

By now you have heard there is a new tax law.  Because we will not experience the actual affects until next April, many of us are not sure how it applies to our specific circumstances.

  1. Do a quick tax projection with your tax preparer and check your tax withholding. Many of us will have an overall tax decrease – but withholdings from our paychecks also went down. Do not get caught off-guard. More importantly, some folks will see higher taxes due to the new limitations on certain itemized deductions. Combine this with lower withholding and you have a double whammy (read: you will be writing a bigger check to the IRS).

  2. Lump and clump itemized deductions. The standard deduction has increased to $24k for married couples filing jointly. In addition, miscellaneous itemized deductions have been removed completely. $10k cap. For some. Lumping charitable deductions in one year to take advantage of itemizing deductions and then taking the standard deduction for several years might be best.

  3. Utilize QCD’s. If you are over age 70.5 and making charitable contributions, you should consider utilizing QCD. Don’t know what QCD stands for? Call us now.

  4. Consider partial ROTH conversions to even out your tax liability. If you are retired, but not yet age 70.5 (when RMD’s start). Don’t know what an RMD is? Talk with us today! If you are in this group, multiyear tax planning may be beneficial.

  5. Most estates are no longer subject to the estate tax given the current exemption equivalent of $11.2M (times 2 for married couples). However, income taxes remain an issue to plan around. One of my favorites: Transfer low basis securities to aging parents and then receive it back with a step up in basis. If you think you might be able to take advantage of this let us know.

  6. Review your distribution scheme in your Will or Trust. Are you using the old A-B or marital/credit shelter trust format? Do you understand how the increased exemption affects this strategy?

  7. How should high-income folks prioritize their savings?
    Are you in the new 37% marginal bracket? If so, consider contributing to a Health Savings Account IF eligible. Next, consider making Pretax or traditional IRA/401k contributions. However, if you reasonably believe that you will be in the highest marginal tax bracket now AND in retirement – then the ROTH may be suggested. Know that for the great majority of us this will not be the case. Meaning, we will be in a lower bracket during our retirement years than our current bracket. Next, use Backdoor ROTH IRA contributions. If your employer offers an after tax option to your 401k plan, take advantage of it. You can then roll these funds directly into a ROTH. Next, consider a non-qualified annuity that provides tax deferral of earnings growth followed by taxable brokerage account.

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If you have not received a copy of our 2018 Key Financial Data and would like a copy let us know

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and is a contributor to national media and publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), mentored many CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Tim Wyman and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Unless certain criteria are met, Roth IRA owners must be 591⁄2 or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. Additionally, each converted amount may be subject to its own five-year holding period. Converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA has tax implications. Investors should consult a tax advisor before deciding to do a conversion. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. A fixed annuity is a long-term, tax-deferred insurance contract designed for retirement. It allows you to create a fixed stream of income through a process called annuitization and also provides a fixed rate of return based on the terms of the contract. Fixed annuities have limitations. If you decide to take your money out early, you may face fees called surrender charges. Plus, if you're not yet 591⁄2, you may also have to pay an additional 10% tax penalty on top of ordinary income taxes. You should also know that a fixed annuity contains guarantees and protections that are subject to the issuing insurance company's ability to pay for them. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

5 Estate Planning Action Steps to Stay in Control of Your Future

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

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I recently attended a 2-day training in Elder Mediation.  Coming from a world in which we work with our clients on a regular basis to make sure estate planning documents are in place and up-to-date, I was alarmed to learn that less than 45% of the U.S. adult population has an active will or durable powers of attorney in place (2017 Caring.com Study). Unfortunately, when these documents are not in place, and the adult (at any age) becomes unable to make decisions for themselves, the court must appoint someone...and families aren’t always in agreement.

According to a 2013 AARP report, there was an estimated 1.5 million older adults with court-appointed guardians; record keeping in many constituencies is not accurate nor complete.  A guardian is appointed to make medical and care decisions for someone who is unable to make decisions for themselves; a conservator is appointed to make financial decisions and handle financial affairs for someone who is unable to handle those duties on their own behalf.  And if the family disagrees about who should be appointed to any/either of these roles, they can voluntarily seek mediation to resolve their differences or the court may order mediation.  In many cases, a family member is ultimately appointed to these roles, but in some cases a third party is appointed to serve in these roles as ordered by the court, leaving the fate of the older adult in the hands of someone who doesn’t know them or their wishes well.

Doing the work now to get documents and plans in place can save you and your family unnecessary stress and anxiety in the future, and can help to make sure that the wishes you have for yourself and your future are carried out even if you are no longer the director of those decisions. 

What action steps can you take now to make sure you maintain ultimate control over what happens to you if/when you can no longer make decisions for yourself?

To ensure that you have the ability to name who you wish to make decisions for you when it is time, I recommend taking the following steps:

1. Make sure you have up-to-date estate planning documents and review them often.  The most important documents to have in place during your lifetime are Durable Powers of Attorney — General/Financial AND Health Care (also known as a Patient Advocate Designation).  Additionally, you may want/need to have a Revocable Living Trust and a Will.

2. Consider drafting your Durable Power of Attorney documents as “Immediate” rather than “Springing”.  Immediate Powers of Attorney allow your advocate to act on your behalf immediately or at any time that you need them to, while a Springing Power of Attorney generally requires two doctors to declare you incompetent to make your own decisions before your advocate can act on your behalf.

3. Be clear and specific about your wishes for your future medical care, personal care and handling of your financial affairs.  Put things in writing and communicate your wishes to your family members and/or key people in your life.  Consider a family meeting to discuss your future wishes and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Plan ahead.  It is never possible to plan for every contingency, but if you are able to plan for things that might happen (chronic health issues, incapacity, etc.), you and your finances can have a better chance of surviving.  Document your plans and communicate them to those that may be in charge of handling your affairs in the future if/when you cannot.

5. Put a team in place before it becomes necessary.  Make sure your financial planner, CPA, Attorney, any healthcare professionals and your family know your plan and your wishes and know one another so that they can carry out your plan when you might not be able to give clear directions.

If you or your family have questions or would like guidance on how to get these plans in place, please do not hesitate to reach out.  We are always here to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Sandra Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

The Importance of Reviewing and Updating Estate Planning Documents

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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Estate planning is typically not an area that most of us get excited about. Let’s be honest, it can be a tough thing to discuss and dig into. Proper estate planning, however, and sometimes more importantly simply staying on top of your plan and keeping your documents up to date, is an essential part of your overall financial game plan. Far too many of us don’t have any documents drafted, period. If we do, chances are they were prepared more than 10 years ago – and we all know how much life can change over the course of a decade! Here are a few things to consider when going through the process of updating your documents:

Reviewing Beneficiaries

One of the simplest things we can do to ensure assets are passed on to who we want, is to have the proper beneficiaries listed on all accounts. This may seem like a “no brainer” but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve discovered, after reviewing accounts with clients, that changes need to be made. Recently, we worked with a new client who was in the process of “end of life planning” for her mother who had recently become divorced. While reviewing accounts and the estate plan with the attorney, we discovered that mom’s ex-husband was still listed as the primary beneficiary on an IRA that totaled nearly $500,000.  Although her trust had been updated to have her assets pass to her children post-divorce, the beneficiary designations were not updated on one of her largest assets. Many people are shocked to find out that although a will or trust may stipulate one thing in regards to asset distribution, a beneficiary designation trumps those documents. Luckily, we were able to help the mother switch the beneficiary of her IRA to her children approximately one week before her passing. This highlights the need to take reviewing beneficiaries extremely seriously, which is why we do this annually with you during your review meeting.

Reviewing Trustees, Personal Representatives, and Powers of Attorney

Just like we tell clients in regards to their financial plan, the same goes for their estate plan – it’s not a “one and done” type of thing. Something this important requires a process and the need to review and stay on top of it as the years go by and as life changes. It can be an eye opener for clients when we share with them who they have listed as a trustee in their trust, a personal representative in their will, or as a power of attorney for medical or financial purposes. Many times, those listed are parents who are now deceased or are siblings that now live on the other side of the country. At the time the documents were drafted listing those individuals made perfect sense, but maybe now the client’s children are mature and responsible enough to be in charge of their parent’s estate and to be their decision maker if needed. Typically, we recommend reviewing your documents every 3 years and immediately after a life event such as a marriage, death of a spouse, divorce, birth of a child, etc. 

As you can see, staying on top of your estate plan is extremely important. It’s also vital to keep these documents well organized and ideally provide copies to your financial planner and have your attorney retain copies as well. We also stress to communicate your wishes and to have open conversations with those who you name to administer your estate. This will help to keep everyone on the same page and help to avoid potential conflict that could arise during a time frame that family should be coming together and not stressing over dollars and cents.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Nick is a member of The Center’s financial planning department and also works closely with Center clients. In addition, Nick is a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional.

3 Tips on Setting Up a Trust from the RJ Trust School

Contributed by: Matt Trujillo, CFP® Matt Trujillo

I recently had the opportunity to attend Raymond James Trust School in Cleveland, Ohio with about 30 other financial professionals.  It was a great refresher, but I learned some new things as well. Below are three of my key take-aways from the RJ Trust School that may help guide you in making decisions about a trust.

3 Take-Aways from the RJ Trust School:

  1. Sometimes to save money people will have a will drafted which calls for a trust to be set up at their death. This type of trust is called a “Testamentary Trust”. One of the issues with structuring your estate plan in this fashion is that with a Testamentary Trust the probate period will continue until the trust terminates which could be as much as 90 years in some states!  This is a long time for creditors to submit claims against an estate, and something to keep in mind when you are considering having documents drafted.
  2. Trusts aren’t just about avoiding estate taxes! There are many other reasons to have assets held in trust name. Here are a few that were mentioned at RJ Trust School:
    • If the beneficiary is a spendthrift and you are worried they might spend all the assets in a short period of time
    • If the beneficiary just doesn’t understand money well and will struggle with financial management
    • If the beneficiary doesn’t have time to manage additional financial matters
    • If the beneficiary has potential credit problems and if they inherited assets outright their creditors could seize the assets
    • If the beneficiary is in a bad marriage and inherit assets outright, a soon to be ex-spouse might have a claim
    • If the beneficiary has special needs it might be better to have inheritance held in trust so they don’t lose government funding
  3. If you’re married, you should strongly consider filing form 706 electing portability at the death of the first spouse, even if you don’t have a taxable estate at that time.  With the recent changes in estate tax law a lot of people think they automatically get their spouse’s estate tax exemption as well as their own. However, as the instructor at RJ Trust School pointed out, you only get both exemptions if you file the appropriate paperwork electing for “portability” at the first death.  For example, if an estate didn’t have estate tax issues at the first death, but grew significantly after the date of death, it could now be subject to estate taxes. That’s a situation that could have been avoided by filing form 706.

If you are considering implementing some estate planning documents or amending the one you currently have in place, you should meet with a qualified estate planning attorney first!

Matthew Trujillo, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Matt currently assists Center planners and clients, and is a contributor to Money Centered.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Matthew Trujillo and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

Estate Plan: Making the Mistake of not Writing a Will

 I’m sure you’ve all heard the scary statistic on the number of people who don’t even have a simple will in place, but every time that fact enters my eardrums and hits my brain, I literally squirm in my chair. The  AARP reports that 41 percent of baby boomers and 71 percent of millenials don’t have wills. A simple estate plan that includes wills, durable power of attorney forms, and letters of instructions will typically cost less than $1,000 from a qualified attorney.  I get that it’s “just one of those things” that gets swept aside each year but, to be blunt, it’s simply foolish to not have these documents in place.  By not having these important forms drafted and on file, you are potentially creating an absolute nightmare situation for your family that includes extensive time, energy, stress and cost that could easily be avoided. 

Do I need a Trust?

I recently attended the Raymond James Trust School, an all-day educational seminar dedicated to the exciting world of estate planning!  While it may not be my personal favorite area of financial planning, it is crucial and essential to maintaining a well-rounded, solid financial plan.  Trusts may or may not be necessary in your personal estate plan, but a trust is a great tool to give you more control over assets and to avoid probate.  Clients are often confused as to what a trust actually is or what it truly accomplishes.  For more information, here’s a link to a brief whitepaper on some reasons why a trust may be appropriate for you.

When to review Beneficiaries

Another area that clients often forget about is keeping up with the beneficiaries on their accounts or life insurance policies.  We’ve had clients discover that ex-spouses are still listed on insurance policies and deceased family members are listed as primary beneficiaries on million dollar retirement accounts.  It is something we proactively check to make sure the correct individuals are selected when we initially set-up an account. However, there is a responsibility that falls on the client to keep us informed of life-changing events that would warrant a beneficiary change.  This is why we work together as a team with our clients to do everything we can to avoid such monumental mistakes. 

Designating Charities

One final thought that I found especially interesting were the numbers surrounding charitable giving.  Over $325 BILLION was given to charity last year – 72% of those funds were given by individuals.  This fact made me smile.  Although times are still tough for many, Americans are among the most generous in giving to those in need.  Charitable planning and giving is something very important to many clients and is something we help clients with often.  Please don’t hesitate to bring this topic up with us if you ever have questions or want to talk more about efficient ways to give your favorite charities. 

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Nick currently assists Center planners and clients, and is a contributor to Money Centered and Center Connections.


The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional. C14-013998

Do You Need to Update Your Estate Planning Documents?

 The question should be WHEN do you need to update your estate planning documents, not IF. If you don't have estate planning documents in place yet, and you are over the age of 18, now is the time to get at least Durable Power of Attorney documents for both health care and financial decisions in place. These Durable Power of Attorney documents give someone else the ability to make decisions and take actions on your behalf during your lifetime if you are unable to do so for yourself. A simple Will is also appropriate for most individuals, even if you don't have significant assets or property.

When to Review Documents

If you already have documents in place, the common rule of thumb is to review your documents at least every 5 years. Changes in estate law or significant life changes may warrant a change in the meantime. Examples of these life changes are:

  • Birth of your first child (update will to name guardian(s) in the event that both parents pass away before the child is an adult).
  • Divorce
  • Death of a spouse
  • Second marriage
  • Inability of one or both of your Durable Powers of Attorney, named executor, or Successor Trustee become unable to serve
  • You desire changes to your plan (how you want assets distributed, to whom, by whom)
  • You have a significant health change

It is important to note that if changes to your estate documents are made, there are steps you need to take to ensure that they can be followed at a later date, when/if needed:

  • If you have a trust, make sure that appropriate assets are titled to the trust and that beneficiaries are updated on retirement accounts, life insurances, etc.
  • Make sure that your financial advisor has updated copies of all documents.
  • Most importantly, make sure that key family members/friends know that the documents exist and know where they are kept.

Keeping your legal affairs up-to-date, and making sure that your legal and financial plans are working in tandem, are vital to ensuring that your future desires are met. Work with your financial planner to discuss what documents and changes might be appropriate for you.

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In 2012-2014 Sandy has been named to the Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional. Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. C14-013670