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By David GordonDirector, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

If you approach prospective and existing clients on the topic of estate planning, most will say, "We're all set." Maybe break the ice by asking this master question: "Do you have any dusty trusts?" A dusty trust is so old, you have to blow the dust off of it to find out what's in it.

Follow-up questions can include:

  • "What, if any, new family changes (marriage, birth of a grandchild, etc.) or issues (divorce, substance abuse, etc.) does the trust need to address?"
  • "Have you evolved your charitable intentions to reflect relevant tax changes?"
  • "Who are your named executors, trustees and beneficiaries, and have you communicated these appointments to your family?"

You can also ask a companion master question: "Do you have any passé plans?" A passé plan is a financial plan that has become outdated and obsolete due to lack of adjustments to account for a client's changing circumstances, goals and realized outcomes.

Follow-up questions can include:

  • "Does your plan assume realistic long-term asset growth rates and impacts of tax changes?"
  • "Does your plan fund all your children's educations, including the children born since you last reviewed the plan?"
  • "Does your plan anticipate just 15 years of retirement income and declining living expenses, or — thanks to medical advances — longer time horizons and increasing costs?"

Consider aligning your review of passé plans with conversations about dusty trusts whenever there is a significant change to family structure, wealth, income or goals — or at least every five years.

Bottom line: As a financial advisor, you are in the best position to ask questions to help the families you serve ensure they don't have any dusty trusts or passé plans.

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