Five Reasons Your Financial Advisor Should Review Your Will

Financial advisors can offer a different perspective about the legal terms in estate documents and what they will mean financially for you and those who inherit your assets.

All the events that happen over our lifetime—going to college, getting married, having children, choosing to divorce and deciding when to retire—have consequences for our finances. However, a little less than half of Americans have tied their financial planning into their estate planning: only 46% of individuals have a will that describes how they would like their money and estate handled after death, according to a Gallup News poll.

Baby boomers are expected to transfer an estimated $30 trillion to $68 trillion to their children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries over the next two to three decades. For those who don’t know where to begin in the estate planning process, typically the first step is to seek an estate attorney to work with you on drafting a will or living trust. While the attorney’s job is to ensure the legal aspects of your inheritance wishes are solidified, it’s a good idea to share your estate documents with a financial advisor.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. Your will should align with your financial goals. Your wealth advisor should already have a full-picture view of your personal, family and financial circumstances. Your advisor works with you to ensure that all your assets and liabilities are accounted for and included in your plan. Upon retirement, this plan forms how your assets will be used to support you for the remainder of life. Providing a legacy to heirs or charities is also an important part of financial planning. Advisors make sure your will aligns with your financial goals by discussing your beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and titling of nonretirement accounts. They also review specific dollar bequests versus the allocation of a percent remaining to ensure it meets your wishes. Finally, they are able to help you consider income tax differences for heirs or charities that inherit retirement funds as opposed to residual estate funds.
  2. You don’t want to forget to include any assets in your will. Because your advisor is your go-to person for taking stock of your assets, they will be able to recognize what assets are accounted for through your estate documents. Even if you do have estate documents, the title of an asset may dictate what occurs upon your death. Understanding which document or title supersedes the other upon death may help avoid undesirable results. Advisors work with their clients to create checklists to keep track of all their important documents and accounts. And most importantly, making sure funds flowing to your estate beneficiaries match up with your desires will help prevent family or legal disputes.
  3. Your advisor can help you navigate situations when your family circumstances change. Generally, it’s recommended to revisit your will every three to five years or if there is a major life event such as a marriage, divorce, birth or death in the family. Your advisor acts as a sentinel for your accounts by reminding you what will occur upon your death, ensuring that any life event can be handled either through a change in your will or a change of beneficiary or title. When financial advisors review a prospective client’s estate documents, one of the biggest surprises is often that an ex-spouse is still named in the will or in a retirement account beneficiary designation. Regular reviews of both estate documents and beneficiary designations will help to uncover issues and inconsistencies.
  4. The tax implications of what’s written in your will aren’t always the most efficient. While your CPA serves as a tax resource, financial advisors can identify opportunities for tax efficiency in the process of passing your assets to heirs. For example, including charitable bequests in your will while making family members the designated beneficiaries of a retirement account will almost always result in a greater income tax burden on your heirs. Some very simple changes may save your heirs significant income taxes on funds they inherit.
  5. Speaking with an advisor is a chance to think about your overall legacy. Your legacy is about much more than the assets you leave behind. Working with an advisor is an opportunity to decide which charities you would like to contribute to and whether to make some or all donations during your lifetime or wait until death. Furthermore, advisors can support in creating a legacy letter as a way to share values, beliefs and life lessons to heirs. Legacy letters are notes that better explain the rationale behind your choices in your estate documents and how you wish to be remembered. They are an opportunity to provide more personal context on how you would like your family to carry out your wishes and insights into the values that guide your life. Although these legacy letters may not be legal documents, they provide a more personal way for you to communicate with your heirs.

If you have questions about the benefits of sharing your will, please reach out to your advisor.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. The above is legal information is provided for educational purposes only, individuals should reach out to a qualified legal professional based on their own circumstances. Certain information is based upon third party data and may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy or confirmed the adequacy of this article. The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of Buckingham Strategic Partners®. R-22-4431

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Why Businesses Should be Treated as Investments

A business is typically its owner’s largest and most complex investment. It is also a fundamental piece of their personal retirement plan. But what if the business owner’s perceived value of the company does not reflect its true value? This could derail their personal retirement plan and their future lifestyle.

Unfortunately, this happens often because businesses are rarely evaluated properly for several reasons:

  • Business owners may not know their company’s true cash return because of tax planning or other techniques that disguise its true performance.
  • Investments in the business are often considered as amounts the owner paid years ago. In addition, most investments are shown at the book value of assets or shareholders’ equity. For a profitable business, this does not consider any intangible assets or goodwill value, which may represent a significant amount of the overall value.
  • Many business owners may not fully understand how to translate their company’s risk into a commensurate rate of return on their investment.
  • When business owners fail to correctly calculate their expected returns and quantify risk, it’s difficult to know the current fair market value of the business. As a result, they may make decisions based on incorrect or incomplete information or miss major opportunities.

The value of a business can also vary depending on its owner’s circumstances and goals. If selling the business to a third party, the owner would expect to receive a maximum purchase price. However, the sale of that same business to a family member or employee might need to be structured so that the company’s cash flow can support the purchase price and make payments to the owner.

Many business owners have heard the rule of thumb that sales of companies are typically three to five times its earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation (EBITDA), though many don’t investigate why. By taking steps ahead of a potential sale, they may discover the business is actually worth twice its EBITDA or—much better for the owner—seven times its EBITDA. Knowing this can help business owners focus on techniques to boost earnings and reduce risk, which would justify a higher EBITDA multiple.

To create value, business owners should consider the various value drivers of profit margin and asset turnover, shown in the tables below. In addition to focusing on these value drivers, business owners should benchmark their company against similar-sized companies within their industry—as investors do when making investment decisions. Proper comparisons can drastically improve a company’s operations and cash flow.

While many investors have close to instant access to the value of their personal investments, this is not available to most business owners. It takes time to understand the value of a business, what drives and impacts value, and how to enhance it. In addition, too many business owners tend not to treat their business like an investment. For example, if a part of your personal portfolio fails to accomplish what you intended it to do, you’d adjust that investment accordingly. But what if your business isn’t generating an adequate return? Similarly, business owners can explore their options for adjustments that will lead to greater value.

Fortunately, really understanding what your business is worth can be easily accomplished through regular business valuations. Conducting one each year can help identify the true value of the business, track the performance over time, and identify critical factors and techniques that have a direct impact on enhancing its value.

Regular valuations also help a business owner’s financial team—including wealth advisors, accountants, and attorneys—design a streamlined, holistic plan that accurately incorporates their personal and business finances. Of course, planning for the disposition of the business itself will add clarity to their overall roadmap for retirement.

This commentary originally appeared August 17, 2022 on thestreet.com.

About the Author: Chuck Laverty
As Director of Business Solutions at Buckingham Strategic Wealth, Charles “Chuck” Laverty, ASA, CBA, CVA, MAFF, CEPA, works in tandem with the firm’s advisory teams to help business owner clients understand and enhance the value of their business and its role in their holistic financial life plan.

This article is for general information and educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Individuals should speak with qualified professionals based upon their individual circumstances. The analysis contained in this article may be based upon third-party information and may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third-party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, confirmed the accuracy, or determined the adequacy of this article. R-22-4086

© 2022 Buckingham Strategic Partners®

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How To Start Strategizing for Charitable Giving Season

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As we approach the busy holiday season, now is a great time to start thinking about which charities match your values for end-of-the-year donations. According to Giving USA’s annual report on philanthropy, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $484.85 billion to U.S. charities in 2021. This year, charities will likely face more need for financial assistance given the pace of inflation and rising costs.

In addition to choosing charities that match your values, your donations have implications for your tax returns and future investment strategies. Financial advisors have the knowledge to help clients meet their gift-giving goals while also being smart about taxes. Explore four ways you can maximize the financial impact of your monetary donation while honoring your wealth plan with our easy-to-understand infographic.

People often approach legacy planning in a chronological life order, focusing on the accumulation of wealth until retirement. When it comes to charitable giving, it’s best to reassess your values and strategies each year. According to Wealth Advisor Elliot Dole, planning for the long term requires a shift in perspective, but it will build the foundation for setting up the ideal legacy and wealth transfer plan. This is becoming especially important for the baby boomer generation, which is expected to donate an estimated 30% of its wealth to charities over the next 20 years.

As every family has a unique set of circumstances, there is not always a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important for your advisor to understand your hopes, dreams and goals in order to create a plan that passes on more than money; it should also pass on the values you hold most dear.

Schedule a conversation with your advisor to discuss the right plan for your family.

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The Game Changing Power of Conviction

Maya Angelo famously stated, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” While relevant in all areas of our connections with others, I believe this is most true with client-advisor relationships. And I believe that one of the most impactful ways we can achieve a genuine connection with our clients is by having a strong unwavering conviction in the research, solutions and implementation of our wealth strategies. To serve clients in an impactful manner, we can’t just think we are doing the right thing for them, we have to know it in our core.

I have seen the power of conviction transform lives; it’s a true game changer.

In 2002, I was a 22-year-old kid getting my feet wet in the investment business. As an avid outdoorsman, I was thrilled when I was invited on a high-altitude mountain climbing expedition. This incredible trip quickly turned into a life changing nightmare. I tumbled over 4,000 feet down the face of a glacier. My beaten, limp body came to rest just shy of the cliffs hovering almost three miles off the ground. Since the altitude was too high for a standard rescue, I was forced to stay the night until a military helicopter could come to my aid. Suffering from a pulmonary edema and serious head injuries, in a state of disarray I unknowingly removed my gloves throughout the cold darkness. Though I miraculously survived the night, the cost was significant. I lost the majority of my fingers and toes to frostbite. Amazingly, this tragedy was the beginning of my “why” to begin doing what I do.

When I agreed to go on the trip, not only was I looking for adventure, I was searching for answers to my already questioning career. The wealth management firm that I joined right out of college was using predominantly actively managed mutual funds within their clients’ portfolios. We’d buy the funds with the best ten-year numbers … and then watch them underperform for the next decade. I had no conviction in this firm’s methodology and beliefs, it was tough for me to talk to my clients with a clear conscious about our portfolio offerings. But all of that was about to change.

After I was rescued, my journey was a difficult road of recovery plagued with surgeries, amputations and infections. While my wounds healed, I began to read the white papers and research around passive investing. I was enamored with the facts and data. It made sense and I was fascinated with the purpose behind it.

Once I was back on my feet and in the office, I was invited to a Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) intro conference in Santa Monica. Those two days would change my life … almost as much as that cold painful night on the mountain.

Over those 48 hours, I was bombarded with regression analysis, betas, coefficients and slopes. While I didn’t fully understand what the heck these DFA guys were talking about, I knew the presenters believed in what they were saying! More than the message they were giving, I loved how they made me feel. Like them, I wanted to live a life of passion fueled by deep conviction.

Following the conference, I introduced myself to Dan Wheeler, the head of Financial Advisor Services at DFA. I told him that I couldn’t go home to the investment world of Wall Street, promised Alpha and big expense ratios that I didn’t believe in. I had three options: work for DFA, find a different advisory firm who implemented with DFA or leave the industry.

Fortunately, Dan and DFA took a chance and offered me a position. Fast forward four months later – I was a terrified, fingerless 25-year-old living in Santa Monica with my dream job. Fueled by my quest for knowledge, I quickly realized that to be able to explain complex investment strategies to my clients, I had to fully understand the “why” behind the “how”. I became dedicated in this lifelong quest.

On an equally important note, before my fateful climb I had the honor of befriending DFA’s Regional Director, Bo Cornell. He saw that I was looking for investment answers, devouring data, searching for truth and questioning the active management concept. The bed of research he shared with me blew me away. The DFA representatives I was introduced to were sensible, smart and most of all passionate. They had a contagious excitement about the research and implementation of their wealth strategies within their portfolios.

As a young man looking for purpose in my career, their conviction was palpable.

Besides being my mentor, Bo was someone whom many of the early Buckingham Founders call a close personal friend, as he initially approved the then start up firm known as BAM. I knew Bo truly cared for me, believed in me and had deep convictions behind the things he was telling me. He wanted the light bulb to go off for me … and boy did it ever. Not only did it cause a shift in the way I looked at the markets, it shifted the way I looked at life.

Thanks to these combined experiences, encounters and fate, my conviction was birthed. I would go on to have a successful career at DFA, eventually becoming a vice president while also managing our internal Client Service team. A key part of this management role was educating new members of our DFA Regional Director team. I was excited to show others the power of truly believing in the firm’s methodology.

As a new member of the Buckingham Strategic Partners team, my conviction is stronger than ever. The evidence-driven philosophy, wealth of resources and deep passion for always doing the right thing runs deep within me and I am thrilled to be home.

I encourage you to find your conviction both personally and professionally. Go beyond being just competent, attack new learning opportunities with deep passion and constantly evaluate your beliefs and processes. It will improve your life in ways you cannot even imagine. Lastly, trust is currency in our business. Clients want to know they are in good hands and that someone truly cares about them through thick and thin.

All of us have a story, reason and a why behind what we do each day. While my story may be a little more unique than yours, its power is no different. I hope that by hearing my conviction journey, it helps you think through yours.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal or tax advice. Certain information is based upon third party data which may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. By clicking on any of the links above, you acknowledge that they are solely for your convenience, and do not necessarily imply any affiliations, sponsorships, endorsements or representations whatsoever by us regarding third-party websites. We are not responsible for the content, availability or privacy policies of these sites, and shall not be responsible or liable for any information, opinions, advice, products or services available on or through them. The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of Buckingham Strategic Partners®. R-22-4260

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