How Collaborative Practice Works For Estate Planning

Posted by: Joseph Kuo | May 30, 2023

I recently co-presented a case study on the power of Collaborative Practice in trust and estate planning.
Multiple Generations

As some of you might know, Collaborative Practice emphasizes the approach of working collectively and cooperatively to resolve financial disagreements or disputes within a family. The idea is that maintaining amicable and collaborative family relationships will help resolve disputes in a way that benefits all sides in the short term while maintaining and strengthening family ties in the long run.

Estate Planning Dilemma: Who Gets The House?

The case study I presented involved an actual family I worked with in my financial life planning practice. To protect their privacy, some of the details have been modified.

An older couple wanted to complete the planning of their family trust. They had been blessed with five children. As they aged, one of the children had become their primary caregiver. The couple was very grateful towards the child who was caring for them, and wanted to leave their home to her. 

However, most of the couple’s net worth was locked up in their home. Although the other four children appreciated that their sibling was taking the lead on caring for the parents, they were concerned that their caregiver sibling would get the vast majority of the parents estate and that they would be left with very little

Creating A Collaborative Practice Team

The parents got stuck because of this concern and were unable to come up with a solution on their own, so the family trust remained incomplete. The trust lawyer enlisted the help of a family therapist/facilitator, who spoke with all the family members and reviewed the situation.

One solution considered was to sell the house, split the proceeds equally among all the siblings, and to hire a professional caregiver. To determine the viability of this idea, the family needed to create a financial projection for this scenario. Although the parents did have a financial planner, this planner’s area of expertise was limited to investments and creating financial projections. In order to run the financial projection, the planner asked the family to provide the necessary data. But the family didn’t know what data to provide.

Left with a chicken-and-egg situation, the facilitator brought me in as a financial life planner who could ask the right questions, gather the right information, and create the projection that the family needed. I worked closely with all of the family members to understand each person’s concerns and where they disagreed with each other. I then created a cost model that allowed family members to understand the viability of their own assumptions around the costs of care and provided a way for the family to work out a solution. 

However, what made the difference wasn’t the cost model It was that an impartial and skilled expert was willing to listen, hear their grievances and acknowledge their pain. The cost model demonstrated that someone cared and allowed the family to focus on where they can agree instead of where they disagree.

Ultimately the issue was settled amicably to all parties. It was agreed that once the parents no longer lived in the house, it would be sold and the proceeds divided equally between the five children. The caregiver would be compensated by her four siblings for her efforts.

Collaborative Practice: Compassionate Estate Planning

From a Collaborative Practice perspective, estate planning is about much more than determining who gets what. It’s also a matter of what legacy the estate owner wants to leave for their heirs. Will the division of their estate lead to division and discord, or peace and understanding?

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