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Are You and Your Clients Making These Estate Planning Mistakes?

A recent survey by Caring.com found that only 42 percent of U.S. adults have estate planning documents in place.

The survey asked participants why estate planning documents hadn’t been established yet. Twenty-nine percent said they have no one to leave assets to, and 47 percent said they simply hadn’t gotten around to it yet, according to the AARP article, “Haven’t Done A Will Yet?”

Not Having a Will

“The biggest estate planning mistake I see people make is not having a plan at all,” Eric Roberge, CFP®, founder of Beyond Your Hammock, told U.S. News and World Report.

About 52 percent of U.S. adults have not made a will, according to BMO Wealth Management. A will is essential to an estate plan, but it’s not enough, writes Bob Carlson in the Forbes article, “7 Big Estate Planning Mistakes.”

Only Having a Will

In addition to a will, other documents need to be in place for an estate plan to be thorough. These include power of attorney, trusts and advanced medical directives.

Neglecting health care power of attorney is also a common estate planning mistake. A health care power of attorney is “all about you, before you die. A will is only about dividing up your property when you’re not around,” lawyer and author Sally Hurme said in the AARP article.

Without determining the person who can make decisions upon incapacity, or stating your wishes in a legal document, state or local law will determine who gets to make these decisions.

Not Updating Beneficiaries

Estate planning mistakes aren’t reserved only for clients, as Nancy L. Anderson, CFP®, wrote in Forbes. Anderson shared how she had divorced her husband when her children were ages 2 and 4, and changed her IRA beneficiary to her father. Twenty years later, she realized she hadn’t updated that, despite her kids being grown.

“If I’d passed away before making a change, it could have been a disaster for my family,” Anderson wrote.

Neglecting Digital Assets

This has been on the radar for a few years, but recently came to the forefront when the CEO of QuadrigaCX, a Canadian crypto exchange, died in December without giving the password to offline cryptocurrency wallets to anyone. Customers with $190 million in cryptocurrency stored with QuadrigaCX might not see their investments again. While neglecting digital assets likely won’t cause your clients’ heirs millions, this is a reminder to not ignore them.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn

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Be a Trusted Adviser: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

“He told me he’d call me back, but I’m not going to hold my breath.” This is what I overheard someone say the other day. I’m not sure if she was talking about a business acquaintance or a potential boyfriend, but her tone was one of acceptance, not disappointment. In other words, she’d come to expect it from this guy.

One of the core components of a trusted adviser relationship is reliability: Can others count on you to do what you say you are going to do? Reliability is where actions meet intention. Planning to do something doesn’t mean that it actually gets done.

When your clients think of you, do they think of someone you communicates clear commitments and then consistently fulfills them? Or do they remember all the times you made a promise but then let it slip away?

Details matter. Your clients look to you as someone they can count on. They want you to say what you mean and mean what you say. If they can’t trust you to return a phone call or share a promised article, why should they trust you to fully implement a plan you’ve agreed on?

Here are three ways to improve your reliability in the eyes of your clients and prospective clients:

  • Set clear commitments and don’t make vague promises. Be very explicit in what you will do and by when. Don’t just say that you’ll send some paperwork over; tell them you will email the account transfer paperwork by 4 p.m. today.
  • Track your commitments. Whenever you commit to doing something, write it down immediately in a trusted place such as your planner or CRM. Otherwise, the “next thing” will come along, and you’ll forget (but your client likely won’t).
  • Reiterate your commitments. Gently remind your clients when you are fulfilling a promise. For example, “Here’s the account transfer paperwork I promised.”

When you follow these three principles, you communicate (to yourself and others) that you are a person who says what he means and means what he says. Isn’t that what people need and want from their trusted adviser?

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions blog. See it here

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Adam Kornegay is a co-founder of Pathfinder Strategic Solutions. He has a background in marketing and business analytics. Coupled with his experience as a financial adviser, he helps a broad array of clients, from relatively new advisers to experienced planners, and consults with various financial services firms. He is a coach in the Messaging and Marketing Strategies FPA Coaches Corner

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3 Career Development Tips for Success

What should financial planners be doing in professional career development for success in 2019? Here are my top three tips.

1.) Use the Power of Weak (and Strong) Connections

The familiar adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” assumed well-known associates are the key to professional success. However, psychologists have been debating the success of networking with people you don’t know (weak connections) versus people you do know (strong connections) for the last four decades. So what works?

Let me summarize the research. Weak connections multiply your chances because of their extended reach. At the same time, your immediate colleagues are individually more powerful because of your close relationship. As a result, weak connections provide more opportunities and close connections provides more advocacy.

The smart strategy is to use the combined power of both. If psychological journals thrill you, read “The Paradox of Weak Ties in 55 Countries,” which was published in Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

2.) Ask and Listen

Psychologists and certified coaches are trained to ask strategic questions and listen perceptively. This sounds simple, but most of us are trained to be experts in talking, not experts in asking and listening.

Asking powerful questions and listening is an ideal strategy with both weak and strong connections. Here’s how:

  • Ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions prompt the most information. Questions that start with what, how, when and who are ideal. Here are some examples:
    • What do you recommend?
    • How would I go about that?
    • Who do you recommend I contact?
    • When shall I follow up?
  • Listen reflectively: Ask, listen, then follow-up with a summary statement. The speaker will confirm (or correct) your perception. Then continue delving deeper with more open-ended questions. An example might be: “If I understand, you recommend contacting your colleague as a good resource. I would appreciate your guidance. What’s the most helpful thing I might learn from making that connection?” In addition to uncovering information, there are psychological and strategic benefits of asking and listening:
    • You make a good impression. We automatically like those who are interested and listen attentively.
    • You boost their self-esteem. People like feeling knowledgeable and important.
    • You increase motivation to help you. Human beings get an endorphin boost from altruism and we value helpfulness. They will want to be helpful.
    • You protect your image. We are less likely to make a mistake if we listen first. For more communication tips, download the PDF Speak Success: 7 Communication Tips to Achieve the Goal.

3.) Kill Brain ANTs

Even the most successful professionals struggle with confidence. Brain ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) are very common, especially during times of professional growth and transition. Check out the successful cognitive psychology technique for how to kill brain ANTs.

Editor’s note: This blog post is an excerpt from the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Make 2019 Your Year: Business and Career Tips to Get the Most out of 2019.” See the full whitepaper here.


Barbara Kay, LPC, RCC, president of Barbara Kay Coaching, is a business psychology and productivity expert who coaches and speaks nationwide. She specializes in growth, productivity, teams, clients, change, women and leadership. Joining the FPA Coaches Corner in 2019, she now offers free coaching to FPA members.