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A potential client will often say to me that he or she needs a financial planner.  I usually suggest that we get started on the estate plan first.

Does that mean you should do a complete estate plan first, and then a financial plan?  Not quite. Just as the design of a house should take into account where the pipes and wires need to go, the design of your estate should take your financial goals into account.  It is really all one plan, but putting it together means working with different experts on different aspects of the plan.

If you are going to open a new financial account, it helps to have your trust already in place. Also, some aspects of estate planning, like health care planning, do not involve financial decisions at all.

But some aspects of estate planning have a definite financial element.  Will your spouse be financially comfortable if you die first?  What about if one of you has a to go into a nursing home?  Should you buy long-term care insurance?  Should you place property into an irrevocable trust? What about planning for children's college tuition?  These are issues that you will discuss with both your estate planner and a financial expert.

To have a well-planned estate, you should have both kinds of advisers: financial and legal, working together to help you design your estate.