Financial and Estate Planning Process
Our Processes Are Your Assurance
Sculptured by years of experience, Gold Tree's processes have evolved into a detailed, step-by-step, systematic approach. This approach includes disclosure as to those things that aren't within your control and process to control those things that are.
These processes include specific systems for:
- Gathering detailed information about your financial situation
- Determining your individual personal objectives
- Analysis of each part of your financial picture
- Determining which strategies relate to your situation and your objectives
- Integrating individual strategies related to your Asset Allocation Model, your estate plan, and your tax planning
- Implementation with consideration for cost /value relationships
- Ongoing monitoring
- Annual Reviews of everything
Monitoring and Annual Reviews
We live in a changing world; therefore, our work is never done. We meet with you at least annually to update and review your financial plan. At these sessions we will review the details of the Gold Tree Financial Money Management System you will be using as it relates to your cash flow, your reserve funds, money to fall back on, a capital base for income, wealth management, legacy planning, etc.
Trends shift in the marketplace, tax laws change, and your personal situation changes. At Gold Tree Financial, we will adjust your plan in response to these changes.
Stages of Your Financial Life
When an event changes your life we're here for you; we're here with you. Our checklist for things to consider and possibly address upon the loss of a loved one has over fifty items on it. We don't provide you the list; we walk through it for you. Other than actual funeral arrangements, we do everything else for you.
When you aren't there to handle financial matters for your surviving spouse, we will be.
There are three stages of your financial life; Accumulation, Distribution, Transfer.
Your Asset Allocation Model needs to adjust for these stages. Additionally, the effects of the tax law are different in each of these stages. To enhance results in each of these stages, it is necessary to use different tax planning strategies for each.
At Gold Tree Financial, we address each of these financial life stages with different tax planning strategies for the benefit of you and your family.
No one lives forever, and when the time comes, it can take six to eighteen months at a cost of $350 an hour to transfer your estate assets... but it doesn't have to. This is one of those things you can control. You can avoid probate, eliminate or minimize federal estate taxes, and minimize the effect of income taxes on IRA assets. We are careful about using the word "can", but, in this case, it is appropriate. You can avoid probate, eliminate or minimize federal estate taxes, and minimize the effect of income taxes on IRA assets.
At Gold Tree Financial, we specialize in administering the processes before estate transfer time to ensure your family's wealth transfers efficiently and to your intended heirs.
We Turn On The Lights
An often heard comment during "data gathering" at our desks is, "No one ever asked me that before". Then, upon discovering something financially disadvantageous to our client in their "as is" situation, they remark, "Why didn't my advisor ever mention this?"
The simple answer is that most people who have a financial advisor assume that appropriate attention is being given to things, even when they don't know what those things are. Actually, most financial advisors never agreed to do those things. They agreed to "manage your investment portfolio for a fee". Sometimes, even when their intent is to do financial planning, they don't have the training or experience to know about minute details on things that may have unintended consequences.
It is kind of like not getting upset because your dentist doesn't change the oil in your car. He never agreed to do that for you as part of his services; but your oil needs changing. Your financial advisor may be providing investment recommendations, or managing your portfolio, but not addressing these other issues. This doesn't mean that he or she isn't professional, or that they don't have integrity. It just means this isn't what they do for a living. You may want to make certain you aren't making unrealistic assumptions as to the scope of the services your advisor is providing.
An undisclosed provision in an annuity contract, a little-known provision of the IRS Code relating to IRA's, an unrecognized consequence of certain account titling, can all cost you and your family substantially.
At Gold Tree Financial, we bring these things to light; help you make appropriate adjustments; control the controllable.
Appropriate Next Steps
Scheduling a time to sit down and discuss your finances with an advisor at Gold Tree Financial isn't a decision to change anything. It is only a decision to ask some questions and determine if there are things that you would like addressed that aren't currently getting any attention. It is a decision to determine if anything is being overlooked. It may be a decision to find out if your current advisor is actually doing financial planning or is only selling financial products.
Note that selling financial products is an honorable profession; it just isn't financial planning. Almost all of Gold Tree Financial's existing clients had a financial advisor before they met us. Now, they have graduated to a different level of financial services.
There is no cost for an initial consultation at Gold Tree Financial. You are also welcome to join us for our monthly social. We don't talk business at socials, but it does provide an opportunity to chat, to get to know who we are, and for us to get to know you. It is also a pretty nice evening out and you won't need your wallet.
Case Studies From Gold Tree Financial Files
(All names have been changed for confidentiality purposes)
Case Study One:
Bill and Linda
When we met Bill and Linda, he was seventy two and she was sixty nine. They had a small investment portfolio which include several annuities, but based on the value of their assets, their fixed income, and the amount of taxes they were paying, Bill had calculated that they would be able to remain in their retirement home and maintain their current standard of living for no more than twelve more years. They had executed a reverse mortgage and were in the process of "spending down" the proceeds from that mortgage.
Their existing plan:
- They intended to spend down their existing assets until they were depleted, at which point, they would abandon the house to the reverse mortgage company and move to subsidized housing in downtown Jacksonville because he would have insufficient income to remain in the residence.
- Bill had determined that this plan would allow him and Linda to stay in their home for 12 years
- Under this plan, after the twelve years there would be no further income from investments and no assets to leave to their children. (Their fixed income included only a small pension and Social Security.)
After analysis, strategic planning, and additional discussions over a period of almost two months, we presented our new clients with three alternative plans, each of which provided trade-offs between retirement income levels, length of time they could stay in their residence, and amount of money they might leave their children, if any.
Using a strategic approach and the appropriate financial vehicles for Bill and Linda's specific needs, we were able to provide them:
- Sufficient monies to immediately facilitate some much needed home upgrades
- A small emergency reserve fund
- Lifetime income of an amount that will cover current income needs and potentially exceed the amount they would have had only for a limited number of years
- Flexibility to determine, at any point in the future after one year, when they would increase their additional income for life.
- And, most importantly: The ability to stay in their home for the rest of their lives
Case Study Two:
Gary and Grace
Gary was a retired CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and eighty one years old when he called Gold Tree Financial. In our first discussion, Gary said to me, "I have been making financial decisions my entire adult life and word on the street is that I was pretty good at it, but I am tired of making financial decisions. I don't want to think about finances; I don't want to learn anything new about financial matters; I don't want to monitor accounts; and most of all, I don't want to make any more financial decisions. I was referred to you by someone whose opinion I value, I trust you, and you folks seem to know what you are doing. Tell me what I should do!" What Gary didn't tell me at the time, but we learned later, was that he was having some personal difficulties with memory.
Gary was concerned about his future ability to function with relation to his financial matters, and since he had always handled the family finances, he was concerned about what would happen to Grace, his wife and the love of his life.
We repositioned the family assets to better align with current objectives, which to no small extent, we determined for them. We positioned resources for adequate family income and reinvested the excess. Additionally, we reduced the family's annual federal tax liability, and redesigned their family estate plan so as to completely avoid probate, minimize the time it would take to transfer the estate, and eliminate estate transfer costs.
Just more than five years later Gary passed away. We met with Grace, got some signatures, and other than funeral arrangements, handled everything. Though it was, obviously, an emotionally trying time for Grace, the transition of asset ownership at Gary's death was seamless. We reassessed Grace's income needs, allocated funds for a family gifting program she wanted to initiate, and took care of all the preparation work for annual income tax reporting. Our CPA is now filing Grace's annual income tax returns, and Grace is having dinner with her and Gary's friends and enjoying visits from their children.
The fear that Grace would have all the financial matters dumped on her at Gary's death was unwarranted. Grace is currently dealing with some health issues, but finances aren't something she worries about. Gary's decision to put us on their team, and ultimately her team, worked as he had hoped.
Case Study Three:
Tom and Susan
Tom and Susan were ages seventy seven and seventy six when they were referred to Gold Tree Financial by friends. The first time we met was as one of our monthly wine tasting socials. During the evening Tom asked if we could talk about what we do at Gold Tree Financial. Diplomatically, I explained to Tom that I was drinking wine and would prefer to not talk business, but would be more than happy to call him the following day. We then spent about half an hour getting to know each other on a non-business basis. Tom was an avid hunter - I had only been quail hunting twice in my life. I spent my recreational time playing competitive billiards - Tom preferred golf. We enjoyed each other's company and both felt that we could likely work together as well.
I called Tom the next day and asked if he had any specific concerns relative to his finances. What he told me was a common story, one I had heard many times over the last thirty years. Tom and Susan had been to an attorney several years ago and had spent almost eight thousand dollars having a family estate plan designed and executed. However, when Tom's brother had died a year ago, after also having had an estate plan done, his family discovered that much of his estate was still subject to probate, even though his brother had a revocable living trust. The family hadn't yet completed the probate process, but had already incurred almost thirty thousand dollars in legal expenses. Tom was concerned that the same thing could happen to his family after his and Susan's passing and he wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid that as an eventuality.
We met with Tom and Susan, gathered all the relevant financial information, determined what they wanted to have happen at their passing, and designed a family estate plan for them. The process included two conference calls over the span of a couple of months, in which we involved their children and were able to design a plan that incorporated not only Tom and Susan's objectives, but those of their three children as well.
A year later Tom died unexpectedly in his sleep; six years Susan contracted Pancreatic Cancer and died six months later.
We met with Tom and Susan's oldest daughter, Lisa, advised her of several steps she needed to take, got some signatures from her, and we did everything else. In less than eight weeks all of the estate assets had changed ownership and the only expense was some postage stamps (which we provided). There was no residence to probate and we had made certain that everything else avoided probate. The children now have their inheritances, without cost, delay, or publicity. Some assets were used to eliminate debt for the heir; some are providing current income; some are invested for future retirement income.
With the assistance of the professionals at Gold Tree Financial, the Stoner family was able to avoid six to eighteen months of $350/hour legal expenses. The opportunity to "stretch" IRA assets was preserved for children and grandchildren, significantly reducing the tax drain potentially experienced on inheritance, and increasing the amount of income those assets provide, all without any increase in investment risk.