Estate planning is a dynamic field where changes to Federal or State law, court interpretations, familial status, market fluctuations and other certain factors may have an immediate and possibly negative impact on any implemented plan. Legal interpretations surrounding certain tax planning techniques frequently change and techniques once thought acceptable to a particular court may be found objectionable without prior notice.
While certain techniques may be beneficial to many potential clients, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ plan and flexibility is often one of the most crucial features of a well-reasoned plan. Certain techniques, though potentially beneficial to a client, may not be recommended or implemented due to practical reasons including implementation costs, additional time requirements of the client, personal tastes, impact on other family members or business associates and other factors. Many techniques have interpretation and other risks and many have both advantages and disadvantages.
To develop a comprehensive estate plan that is suitable to each client’s needs, risk tolerance and unique circumstances, requires the planner to discern which personal and financial objectives are most important to a client. Once discerned, the planner must determine the current assets and liabilities of the client and those that are reasonably foreseeable. Additionally, the planner should ascertain an estimate of the client’s living expenses.
Whenever the risk of loss of assets to a judgment creditor is elevated, asset protection planning becomes a concern during the estate planning process. The planner must discern a client’s exposure to heightened asset protection risk during a preliminary interview with the client.
The estate planner must establish a client’s need and timing for income related to certain investment assets to determine whether such assets might be temporarily (or sometimes permanently) placed outside the reach of a client to fulfill various purposes. Additionally, the planner must reasonably discern if and when a client’s annual income or expenditures will change demonstrably.