Plans are about achieving goals and this is equally true with estate planning. The goal of estate planning is not to fill in a form or create a document. These things are merely an expression of the plan so that it can be carried out. Estate planning goals are things like providing for loved ones or charities structured in a legally appropriate manner that minimizes the chances of interpretation problems and challenges. Other goals may include minimizing income and estate administration taxes and asset protection. Estate planning can also involve the specification of key health care objectives such as organ and tissue donation or instructions about treatments to which you will or will not consent.
These broad goals emphasize the multi-disciplinary nature of estate planning. For example, the goal of “providing for loved ones” has a financial element as well as legal and may also include insurance considerations. Investments need to perform well within the owner’s risk tolerance, as well as protecting against the risk of loss, to provide for the owner and others during the owner’s life and after death. That’s the financial and insurance side. However, the ownership of investment accounts and insurance policies need to be structured properly for the benefit of the owner and those he/she may wish to benefit also considering relevant risks (i.e. joint ownership or not, beneficiary designations if permitted, use of powers of attorney, how the balance is to be transferred on death or possibly before). This is the legal side. Then there are the income tax considerations which have both legal and accounting elements.
No one professional group has all the answers. In order to get the best results, a team approach is preferrable.