The number of wealthy individuals in Asia has surged in recent years, resulting in a heightened demand for estate planning services.
What is estate planning?
As the most intricate and complex aspect of financial planning, estate planning, at its core, helps people plan for how their assets, such as property, business and cash — should be distributed in the event of their death. Far from being morbid, it is actually a very important and often neglected element in a person’s life.
It is a very systematic process in which clients have a detailed discussion with a qualified estate planner about their dreams and goals, and what they wish to leave behind for their families to ensure their loved ones are well provided for when they are no longer around. It is also about creating and leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Through a very comprehensive and personalised one-on-one approach, estate planners give individuals a clear picture of their estate and map out a financial plan for them to achieve those dreams and goals.
Importantly, they have the expertise to safeguard the estate from potential issues that may arise, and make sure these goals for their family will not be jeopardised in the event of the client’s death.
Tools of the trade
Estate planning entails a high degree of specialised knowledge in various financial tools as well as a sound understanding of family law, Intestate Succession Acts, probate, trust and so on.
Depending on clients’ needs, estate planners will administer a number of financial tools to help the clients achieve their goals. These include insurance coverage —for death, critical illness, disability, loss of income — to protect their assets, and tools to grow, create or even “double” their wealth in order to leave a legacy for future generations.
Will planning is another crucial pillar of estate planning, as it outlines how the person’s estate will be distributed upon death. Depending on a person’s situation, a testamentary trust may be created through a will to better protect and preserve one’s estate.
This is especially important where the beneficiaries in the will are young children or mentally incapacitated or physically disabled individuals.
Other tools that are used often in estate planning include executing a Lasting Power of Attorney (a legal document appointing another person to make decisions on someone’s behalf if they lose their mental capacity in the future) and an Advanced Medical Directive, which states that a person does not wish to have extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to prolong their life should they become terminally ill.
One common frustration the deceased’s family faces is gathering all the information and documents required when filing for probate (the legal process of administering one’s estate upon death), which can take a few months to a few years, if one dies without a valid will.
To expedite this process, estate planners help clients create a one-file system so that upon death, the deceased’s family merely has to access that one file instead of having to search high and low for all the necessary documents.
Is estate planning for you?
How do you know if this is the right career for you?
You may find estate planning very fulfilling if you enjoy finance, want to command your own income, and fancy the idea of building a business/franchise with very low outlay.
You will need to have at least a diploma and it is a bonus if you have an affinity for legal theory, as there are many legal concepts that will need to be applied on the job.
In terms of soft skills, you will excel if you can work well independently, are outgoing and like to talk to people, are a good listener, are able to communicate with people easily, and most importantly, like to help people solve problems.
Commanding a good income
Estate planners can expect to earn a six-figure annual income within a few years on the job. For a start, some companies may offer a fixed salary for a year or two as you learn the ropes and then you are on your own.
If you accept a fixed pay, you would have to keep standard office hours. Once you are independent, your time is yours to manage, just as if you were running a business.
Workdays can be long as clients often choose to meet in the afternoon and evenings.
On the upside, owning your time also means that you have the flexibility to attend to personal affairs whenever they arise.
Training and development
Although you would work independently for the most part, the organisation you choose to join should have a strong system in place to help you succeed.
It should send you for courses and provide on-the-job training in the field. Some companies even have a system to help newcomers find clients, by conducting regular seminars, for example.
Ultimately, being an estate planner means you are an important partner in your clients’ life journey. As your clients grow, you grow with them and you gain many trusted friends along the way. Estate planning is not only financially rewarding, it can be a very fulfilling career choice.