Who Should Be On Your Estate Planning Team?

A comprehensive estate planning process is accomplished by a team of professionals performing different roles. Therefore, you must have confidence in your team and open communication between all members and you.


A typical team includes the following list of professionals. However, the size of your estate and the type of assets you own will dictate the team members.


Accountant We may be the one team member most familiar with you, your goals, income, and financial holdings since we provide annual tax services. In addition, the tax returns we prepare will provide important information as the planning process evolves. Also, we play an important role in estate administration, including preparing the tax return for the year of death, filings with the county courts, filing the estate and trust returns if needed.


Attorney – The attorney will review the plans to make sure there are no legal issues when there is property or beneficiaries in multiple states.  In addition, the attorney is responsible for preparing all of the legal documents needed, such as your will, trust agreements, buy/sell agreements, power of attorney, and medical power of attorney.  We often suggest using an attorney specializing in estate planning since federal and state transfer laws can be complex, and your current attorney may not be up on these laws.


Trust Officer – A trust officer will typically be involved after the plan is in place to implement the plan.  The trust officer will be charged with taking control of your assets, managing the assets, and distributing them to the beneficiaries according to your will or trust documents.


Life Insurance Underwriter – Insurance plays an important role in providing liquidity in some estate plans (but not all). Therefore, a person knowledgeable in the various products available can be an essential part of the planning team and provide valuable information.


Financial Planner – A financial planner who has worked with you provides a unique perspective on your situation.  This person has probably worked with you to help you accumulate your wealth and know your goals and desires.


Valuation Expert – A valuation expert is a part of the team if you have hard-to-value assets or business entities in your portfolio. Many accounting firms (including Suttle & Stalnaker) have valuation experts on staff to assist with these unique assets.


As you can see from the brief descriptions, not every estate planning team will consist of all of these members. Your specific situation will dictate what professionals will be needed on your team.


If you have been thinking about your goals and planning for your family and would like to put the planning process in motion, please reach out to Elaine Dougherty, CPA in our Morgantown office at 304-554-3371.  You may also email Elaine at edougherty@suttlecpas.com.