Tips to Ensure Long-Term Client Engagement in Estate Planning

Jun 11, 2024 | Estate Planning & Administration

Estate Planning Success: How to Keep Clients Engaged 

Estate planning is a crucial step for high-net-worth individuals and their families to ensure their wealth is protected and distributed according to their wishes. However, the complexity and emotional weight of starting an estate plan can create barriers to initiating this vital dialogue. Professionals who can navigate these conversations skillfully provide immense value to their clients. By turning the discussion into an opportunity to align a client’s values and wishes with their legacy, advisors can nurture a deeper client relationship that supports ongoing check-ins to keep plans effective and up to date.

In this article, we will explore how attorneys and financial advisors can effectively start—and continue—estate planning conversations with their clients, ensuring that their plans remain relevant and aligned with their evolving circumstances.

Consider this illustration: A 95-year-old woman in declining health had, earlier in her life, arranged for her estate to be distributed outright to her three grandchildren. Now young adults, all three have special needs, addiction or mental health issues. The woman’s documents, which were written years ago, did not account for the drastic changes in her beneficiaries’ circumstances over time. 

This revelation was alarming, as the outright distribution of significant funds to these individuals could have been disastrous. This example underscores the value of continuous engagement and communication between attorneys and their clients in order to preserve the client’s legacy and enhance future stewardship. 


The significance of having a comprehensive estate plan cannot be overstated, as it lays the groundwork for a smooth transition of assets and reduces the likelihood of disputes and financial pitfalls. For the most hesitant clients, it’s important to highlight both the benefits of organizing their estate and the risks to their family if they delay this important task. By emphasizing these points, you can help clients understand the importance of taking action to secure their financial legacy.

The Benefits of a Documented Estate Plan

  • Ensures Assets Are Distributed According to the Client’s Wishes: A well-drafted estate plan ensures that your client’s assets go to their desired beneficiary designations. Without a clear plan, state laws will determine the distribution, which may not align with their desires.
  • Minimizes Tax Burdens and Maximizes Wealth Preservation: Strategic estate planning can significantly reduce estate and inheritance taxes, allowing more wealth to be passed to future generations.
  • Provides Peace of Mind and Secures the Financial Future of Beneficiaries: Knowing there is a solid plan in place provides peace of mind for clients and their families. It ensures that beneficiaries are taken care of according to the client’s wishes, reducing stress and uncertainty.

Significant Risks if an Estate Plan Is Not in Place

It’s hard to believe, but 67% of Americans do not have a documented estate plan. This can lead to numerous risks and complications:

  • Family Conflict and Potential Legal Disputes: Without a clear plan, family members may disagree on the distribution of assets, potentially leading to conflicts and costly legal battles. This can create lasting rifts within the family.
  • Unintended Distribution of Assets: If an estate plan is not in place, assets may be distributed according to state intestacy laws, which might not reflect the client’s intentions. This can result in unintended beneficiaries receiving a portion of the estate.
  • Higher Costs Due to Lack of Tax Planning and Legal Complexities: Without an estate plan, the estate may incur higher taxes and legal fees. Proper planning helps mitigate these costs, preserving more wealth for the beneficiaries.


Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all process. Each client has a range of personal goals–from providing for their families to supporting charitable causes and protecting their assets from potential risks. By recognizing these motivations–and addressing potential misconceptions–you can provide personalized guidance that will empower your clients to make informed decisions while also building trust for ongoing conversations.

Common Goals and Motivations for Wealth Distribution

  • Desire to Provide for Future Generations: Many clients aim to secure their children’s and grandchildren’s financial futures. Preserving family wealth and values, such as funding education, is often a key motivation.
  • Philanthropic Goals: Clients may wish to leave part of their estate to charities or community projects that are meaningful to them. Establishing foundations, endowments, or scholarships in their name or in memory of loved ones is also a common goal.
  • Protection of Assets from Creditors or Divorces: Structuring the estate to shield assets from division in the event of a beneficiary’s divorce or from creditors’ claims is crucial. High-net-worth clients often need to protect family-owned businesses from financial risks and ensure smooth transitions.

How to Address Common Objections and Misconceptions

  • “I don’t need an estate plan; I’m not ultra-wealthy.”
    Estate planning is essential for anyone who wants to ensure their assets are managed and distributed according to their wishes. Even clients with modest estates can benefit from having a plan in place to address healthcare directives, guardianship for minor children, and the distribution of personal possessions.
  • “Estate planning is too expensive and complicated.”
    While there is an upfront cost to creating an estate plan, it is a worthwhile investment that can save significant money and stress in the long run. Proper estate planning can minimize taxes, reduce legal fees, and avoid the costly and public probate process.
  • “Once my estate plan is in place, it’s final and can’t be changed.”
    Estate plans are not set in stone. They are designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing changes as life circumstances evolve. Clients should understand that they can update their estate plan to reflect major life events such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and significant financial changes. This flexibility ensures that their plan remains relevant and effective.


The estate planning process can be daunting for clients. As their trusted advisor, your guidance and support are essential in helping them take the first steps. By fostering a supportive environment where clients feel understood and empowered, you can motivate them to take control of their estate planning. This approach not only facilitates the process but also lays the groundwork for a lasting partnership.

  1. Create a Comprehensive Inventory of Assets
  • Real Estate: Encourage clients to list all properties, including primary residences, vacation homes, and investment properties.
  • Investments: Guide them in documenting all stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement accounts, and savings.
  • Business Interests: Assist in identifying ownership stakes in businesses, partnerships, and LLCs.
  • Personal Property: Help clients catalog valuables such as jewelry, artwork, and vehicles.
  • Other Assets: Ensure they include life insurance policies, as well as any debts and liabilities.
  1. Identify Beneficiaries and Their Specific Needs
  • Beneficiary List: Work with clients to list all potential beneficiaries, including family members, charities, and others.
  • Specific Needs: Discuss the financial stability and unique needs of each beneficiary, such as special needs or creditor protection.
  1. Outline Primary Tax Concerns

Clients often worry about tax implications. Simplifying these concerns can help them feel more at ease:

  • Federal and State Estate Taxes: Explain current exemption limits and potential liabilities in a straightforward manner.
  • Gift Taxes and Exemptions: Clarify annual and lifetime gift tax exemptions.
  • Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes: Discuss implications for leaving assets to grandchildren or later generations.
  1. Prioritize Fundamental Estate Planning Documents
  • Last will and testament
  • Revocable living trust
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Healthcare proxy and living will


Estate planning should not be a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that needs continuous attention. Regularly revisiting and updating estate plans greatly increases the likelihood that they remain effective and aligned with the client’s evolving circumstances and wishes.

The Importance of Continuous Updates

  • Aligning with Current Situations and Wishes: Life is dynamic, and significant changes such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and changes in financial status can all impact an estate plan.
  • Ensuring Compliance with Changing Laws and Regulations: Estate laws and tax regulations frequently change. Keeping the estate plan up to date ensures compliance with the latest legal requirements and takes advantage of any new beneficial provisions.
  • Identifying and Mitigating Potential Issues Early: Regular reviews can help identify and address potential issues before they become significant problems. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of disputes and ensures that the client’s wishes are clearly articulated and legally sound.

Best Practices for Ongoing Communication

  • Schedule Regular Check-Ins: Establishing a routine for periodic reviews, such as annually or bi-annually, helps keep the estate plan current with any changes in the client’s life.
  • Use Milestones as Reminders: Leverage significant dates like birthdays, anniversaries, or other personal milestones as natural reminders for estate plan reviews. These occasions can prompt clients to consider any life changes that may necessitate adjustments to their plans.
  • Send Newsletters or Updates on Legal Changes: Regularly sending newsletters or updates about relevant legal changes keeps clients informed about how these changes might affect their estate plans.

At Cumberland Trust, we are dedicated to supporting estate planning professionals and their clients in navigating this ongoing process. Our team members draw on decades of collective experience working with families in order to encourage clients at the appropriate time to address the complex and emotionally charged issues of their estate plan. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you to provide exceptional trust and estate administration services for your clients.