FA-IQ reached out to advisors to ask: What are your clients’ top concerns when it comes to estate planning, and what are the challenges or hurdles they need to overcome to make sure everything is in order?

Jack Petersen, managing partner, co-founder and advisor at Summit Trail Advisors. New York City-based Petersen has been in the industry for 30 years and his firm has $14.7 billion in client assets.

“A top concern our clients have is not hampering their control or enjoyment of certain assets used in planning while also being as tax efficient as possible and finding the right balance between the two.

The threshold of their net worth is also a big factor in how they feel.

They also often are worried about their assets being captured by creditors or divorce by surviving spouse and children after they are gone.

Jack Petersen
They also worry that the assets will be properly distributed as per their wishes and the documents will operate as explained.

[The b]iggest hurdle is too much planning is done in a vacuum without any advisor having a comprehensive data set on the family and that a forward process is normally not adopted so that when a client's financial situation evolves, along with tax law, so does their plan.”

Jim Pratt-Heaney, founding partner of Coastal Bridge Advisors. Westport, Connecticut-based Pratt-Heaney has been in the industry for more than 30 years and has $2.85 billion in client assets.

Jim Pratt-Heaney
“Estate planning concerns range from client to client, but many are seeking to have the most tax-efficient transfer of their assets to family or charity/philanthropy.

Overall, clients are concerned the funds heirs inherit are protected from creditors, divorce, and lawsuits.

The challenge here is to achieve this without overcomplicating the estate. The more assets involved, the greater the complexity.

We must make sure that our clients truly understand what the estate plan will do. We use language they can understand, not legal jargon, and engage in a deep discovery and planning process to help make sure the plan is aligned with their goals.”

Brett Bernstein, chief executive officer and founder of XML Financial Group. Rockville, Maryland-based Bernstein has been in the industry for 23 years and has $3.7 billion in client assets.

Brett Bernstein
“I think our clients' top concerns around estate planning would be the 2026 tax code repeal, thus reducing the federal credit exemptions on wealth transfers.

Hopefully, after this mid-term election, and ultimately the 2024 presidential election, there could be more clarity on what that could look like come December 31, 2025.”