Paul Sullivan’s article titled “Estate Planning Remains a Moving Target Under the New Tax Law”, published by the New York Times under the ‘Wealth Matters’ section on April 26th, 2013 – is a testament to the idea that the importance of data organization from an estate planning aspect has reached a new level. Now, more than ever, as tax laws evolve and change, the organization and cohesiveness of an estate plan with proper documentation is critical. On one side of the estate planning equation are the fiduciaries, which are more than likely spread across several institutions in the HNW and UHNW space. The other side of the relationship is, of course, represented by the estate planning clients themselves.
Sullivan’s article speaks from the perspective of how to best plan, from an execution standpoint, to protect the estate. He writes, “But a more immediate issue is an estate plan that has a credit shelter trust written into it. These trusts were used to make sure both spouses got their full exemptions. But the new law includes a provision called portability that allows the surviving spouse to use any leftover exemption amount, even if it was not put in trust.” This quote is Sullivan’s call to action for fiduciaries.
Just as there are two sides of the equation represented in, the fiduciaries first, and the household second, there are two sides of the representation of the information. As the financial services industry moves into a new era of regulation and embraces the information age, estates and the households represented within them deserve awareness. Sullivan’s article is focused on the idea of how the fiduciaries can move to protect and preserve multi-generational wealth. A question here is raised, in the sense of urgency now accompanying the estate planning industry. Do the estates, and members therein, deserve a better, more comprehensive window into the details surrounding their future?
Advocating the idea of a client-facing piece of technology designed to bring the estate ‘up to speed’ on what’s happening with their financial information spread across multiple asset classes and institutions is a logical next step, in a changing landscape regarding estate planning. Households in the space described by Sullivan as possessing a net worth above “$5.25 million — or $10.5 million for a couple” are already being affected. As Sullivan calls the fiduciaries to action, one can call the estate clients themselves to action. The action is now to continue the growing demand, and requirement, to provide an accessible view of the complete picture for each and every estate planning client being served, and to empower the household.