February 2016 – Estate Planning Resources

Though a complex and sensitive process, an estate plan is a vital component to every investor’s financial health. With the greatest transfer of wealth in American history on the horizon, estate planning will become an even more important topic for investors and brokerages alike. In fact, a recent study by Fuse Research Network found financial advisors cited a strong interest in estate planning resources, but less than 20% of fund companies reported providing them. Our study of brokerage websites confirmed this trend. In this month’s Broker Monitor Report, we reviewed the estate planning services and products as well as any related educational content, offered by the 18 firms in our coverage group. We also reviewed any tools or calculators made available to help investors prepare for the estate planning process.

Overall, nearly 60% of firms in our coverage group offer estate planning services to their investors including all full-service firms in our coverage group that offer estate planning services as a part of their financial planning services. Only three discount firms offer estate planning services.

All of the firms except for one offer either an estate or trust account. Trust accounts were universally offered by firms in this report, but only half offer estate accounts. Sixty-two percent of full-service firms and 40% of discount brokerages offer both accounts. The estate and trust accounts offered by discount brokerages mirror many of the capabilities offered in the firms’ standard brokerage accounts including the same trading capabilities, commissions and cash management options.

Educational content, on either the public or private site, was offered by 61% of firms. Overall, the educational content offered was broad and covered primarily only the basics of estate planning, though two firms stood out for their coverage of more topical issues affecting estate transfers. Another firm drew notice for its comprehensive sitelet that covers a wide range of topics related to the transfer of wealth.