July 2014: Estate Planning Resources

The July 2014 Advisor Monitor examines the variety and utility of the estate planning resources and insights offered by asset management firms to advisors and their clients. Fifteen of our 19 coverage firms offer at least some selection of estate planning content, though the topics addressed, content organization, and utility to advisors and clients vary widely within this group. This report assigned three As to firms with comprehensive and well-organized estate planning content, followed six Bs, two Cs and four Ds to firms that pay less attention to the topic. Specifically, this report focused on the following criteria:

  • Location of Estate Planning Content
  • Type of Estate Planning Content
  • Advisor- or Client-Focused Resources

This is the first time we have published a report specifically focused on estate planning; however, we addressed the topic in the past as part of our Life Events Content Report series, the last of which was published in 2012.

Only four firms offer a dedicated site section for estate planning content. Firms more commonly address estate planning topics in conjunction with other forms of financial planning (usually for retirement or college savings) without specifically focusing on estate planning itself. One firm provides an exemplary dedicated section for estate planning that offers materials to help advisors better serve their clients’ estate planning needs. On the other end of the spectrum, another firm provides an excellent example by offering well-considered estate planning advice as part of its retirement planning-focused Business Builders modules.

Firms address a diverse mix of estate planning topics. Twelve firms highlight the estate tax benefits provided by 529 plans; for some firms this is the only estate planning information available. In addition, eleven firms address estate tax planning in general, while 10 discuss financial gift regulations and nine outline the importance of beneficiary designations.

Materials are also offered through a balanced mix of advisor and client-focused resources. Seven firms provide advisor-only content, while 11 provide materials suitable for clients and four firms offer both varieties. Forty percent of surveyed firms offer estate planning content designed to be shared by advisors and clients during their meetings. Two firms’ checklists provide a simpler example, while four firms’ rich PowerPoint presentations help advisors illustrate important concepts and are significantly more involved.

We discovered the following key findings in our analysis:

  • Four firms feature dedicated site sections for estate planning content.
  • Eighty percent highlight the estate tax advantages of 529 plans.
  • Seventy-three percent focus on estate tax planning in general.
  • Sixty percent provide guidance for beneficiary reviews and designations.
  • Forty percent offer materials that advisors and clients can share in a meeting.
  • Seventeen percent discuss a proprietary risk management tool or system.