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DISCLAIMER: THIS SCRIPT IS A REFERENCE TO USE FOR YOUR WORKSHOP. IT HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED WITH THE SECURE ACT INFORMATION OR CURRENT TAX INFORMATION FOR 2021.
Estate Planning Seminar Script
Good evening/afternoon, everybody. Today we’re going to talk extensively about how to save money on your auto insurance, your home owners insurance, and also your umbrella liability policy. (PAUSE) Just kidding! No, what we’ll really be talking about today, of course, is estate planning. Really, three things in particular: First of all, you’ll learn some of the common mistakes folks make when doing estate planning and how to avoid them. Second, the most important components to consider in an estate plan, and third, specific steps you can take to ensure you have a well-thought out estate plan that not only protects your assets and your loved ones, but also ensures your final wishes will be honored.
Before we get rolling, I would like to give out my disclaimer: I am not an attorney. This is an educational workshop and is not intended to give specific advice or legal determination for participants. Any legal work will be referred to a licensed attorney and any tax advice will be referred to a licensed tax accountant.
OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started. Who can give me a good, clear definition of what estate planning is?
(Allow guests to respond)
Actually, the definition of estate planning is accumulating, preserving, and ultimately distributing your assets. So when you think of estate planning, you think about wills, trusts and where the money goes when you die, but actually, it’s much broader than that because it includes other things that you might not be thinking about, so today we’re going to cover those things too.
Now, some of you might know me, some of you don’t. For the benefit of those of you who don’t know me, I’d like to take a minute to have you reach into your folders and on the left side is a biography of yours truly. My name is (your name) and I’m here representing (your company). You’ll see that I am not an estate planning attorney, but I am a (whatever credentials or licenses you have). So, I’m more like your primary care doctor, who knows a little bit about cardiac issues, gastrointestinal issues, oncology issues and so on, yet you wouldn’t want your primary care physician to do open heart surgery or treat you for cancer. That specialist, in my analogy, would be an estate planning attorney. I am able to provide you with basic information on estate planning, but I cannot provide any legal advice or tax advice related to your personal situation.
My goal tonight is to educate you on the basics of estate planning and offer you a complimentary meeting, where you can take this textbook knowledge that you’re getting this evening and apply it to your own real world situation. We’ll show you some of the different aspects of estate planning that may help you understand what might be appropriate for you, eliminate things that are not appropriate for you, and if your situation warrants it, refer you to a local, qualified estate planning attorney to actually provide legal advice and write the required documents for you. And you’ll be happy to know that they will usually give you a discount because of my relationship with them and because much of the time they would normally have to spend up front educating you, would already be done in the meeting we have.
Speaker has blue sheet in hand for next section
Now, if you’ll look in your folder again, I’d like to ask you to take out the blue sheet, please. This blue sheet is actually a very important tool for all of you and for me. It’s an important tool for me because there are some questions in here that I would appreciate you taking a few minutes later on to answer, which helps me improve these events. The reason the blue sheet is an important tool for you is because down here on this lower section, is where you get an opportunity to pick your time slot for the one-on-one complimentary meeting I’m offering each of you, where I can help you take all this text book knowledge and apply it to your specific situation.
Presenter returns blue sheet to table and gets a copy of the white program pamphlet
So I’ll give you some time later on to fill out these blue sheets, but for now, let’s go ahead and take out the big white sheet with the drawing on the front of it and we’ll delve into the important information that you’re here for this evening. Let’s flip past the first page for a minute and go to the second page where it says on the top, “Why Good Estate Planning is So Important."
You know, I could probably write a book about all the sad stories I’ve heard from financial advisors over the years about the mistakes people have made with their estate planning. Many people think of estate planning as reducing estate taxes, saving probate fees, etcetera, but there’s a lot more to it than that. About saving probate fees or reducing estate taxes: A lot of attorneys will tell you that you can avoid probate fees, but the truth is, you can't avoid probate fees, even if you don’t owe estate taxes.
As you may know, the federal government raised the estate tax threshold to be charged on estates over $5.3 million for individuals or above $10.6 million for married persons. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that there probably aren’t too many of you here tonight with estates over $10.6 million, which might mean you’re thinking, “We’re below that threshold, so who cares about estate planning? We don’t need to worry.”
Well, some of the most important reasons for estate planning are not just legal fees and taxes; they’re family things. I had a client, years ago, who had a business and he was stuck with a dilemma. He had three children and one of them was really helping him in the business, but his other two children weren’t. His biggest asset was his business. So what does he do? When he dies, do all three kids own the business equally, even though only one actually worked in the business? He wondered if this was fair.
Well, there is no one answer. What’s fair for you and your family might be different from what’s fair for another, but those are the types of decisions that people have to consider that oftentimes can be very difficult. In this gentleman’s case, estate planning was the key to helping him solve the dilemma. What he didn’t want to have happen was for his kids to be resentful or not talking to each other or fighting amongst themselves after he passed on, simply because he never made a decision or spelled things out. And by the way, he’s still alive and doing well.
Think about it. Let’s assume you have a home by the water, a vacation cottage, or another valuable piece of real estate and you have three children. One of your children says to you one day, “You know what mom? Don’t sell the cottage. We all love that cottage and we’re going to keep it. We’ll keep it in the family and your grandchildren can have when we’re gone.” It’s a heart-warming thought, but what if the other two kids don’t really care about keeping it? If you bought that cottage back in the ‘70s, it could be a proportionally large part of your estate. So even though you may want to keep it in the family too, you realize, "Wait a minute; my two children who don’t care about it might not want to pay their share of the real estate tax or might want to sell it.” So, what do you do? How do you word your will so everyone’s happy? Do you give it to the one child and disinherit the others?
I know of another situation where two siblings were trying to get an estate settled and there were some items that the will failed to clearly spell out regarding who should get what. They tried to resolve it between them, but they couldn’t agree. Well, from there, they ended up fighting and it got so bad, they ended up communicating entirely through attorneys. The whole thing got blown out of proportion, dragged on for years, and the attorney’s fees went up and up the whole time. These are both examples of what can happen when you don’t spell out your wishes ahead of time.
So, the real purpose of estate planning is to make sure you look at everything and that everybody gets along in the end. Think about it: Where is most of the emotional attachment in situations like these? Is it on the financial assets or is it on the personal items, such as mom’s jewelry? I’ve seen situations where two daughters didn’t speak to each for years other over claims on different pieces of mom's jewelry. Who’s supposed to get what? Now, do me a favor. Raise your hand if all of your children agree with each other 100 percent of the time.
(Allow for Response)
That’s a good reason for estate planning right there. Another question: who here has lost a spouse?
(Allow for Response)
When you lose your spouse, you’re told not to make any major decisions for how long? One year? Sometimes even 2 or 3, right? Why is that? Because, you’re not in a good frame of mind to make decisions, right? You’re not in the right emotional place to make good decisions and that’s another purpose of estate planning – to make it easier for you and your loved ones. So, have your wishes and instructions spelled out ahead of time. This way, the decisions are already made, which will reduce the possibility of any ‘family feuds’ from arising.
NOTE: Please review your state’s laws regarding passing away “intestate”, a legal term used when someone passes away without a will and amend accordingly before presenting
Now, what if you di