Published on: November 17, 2023

Who processes the investment assets for your estate? Who guides your spouse and family through the process with experience, diplomacy, and advice?

The answer: Your financial advisory team! These 10 stages are rooted in The McGowanGroup Wealth Management’s decades of logistical experience in doing retirement plans and aiding client families to plan effectively.


Stage 1: Retirement Plan Beneficiary Selections

For most clients, the initial encounter with estate planning involves deciding the beneficiary of an IRA or 401k acct. A common mistake is designating your estate as the beneficiary, potentially leading to taxation in the case of a pretax account. A subsequent step involves selecting contingent beneficiaries in the event of your primary beneficiary’s demise.


Stage 2: The Will

Inspired by the wisdom of renowned investors like Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett this stage focuses on choosing your Executor, Executrix, or Trustee. It’s crucial that your financial team possess an executed copy of the will, as they are expected to execute it posthumously with an Estate Planning Attorney’s assistance.


Stage 3: The Revocable Family Living Trust

Considering a Living Trust as an alternative to a will is a pertinent question for your estate planning attorney. Based on our extensive experience, a living trust, with a successor trustee, proves to be the most efficient and least disruptive process, particularly for a living will for surviving spouses. This trust operates under the social security number of the individual or couple, functioning similarly to an investment account.


Stage 4: Coordination

Productive brainstorming on optimal estate plan choices results from coordinating the advice of your CPA, estate planning attorney, and your financial advisor at each stage.


Stage 5: Trustee Bootcamp

Your executrix, executor, or trustee should at least have the contact information of your financial advisor, attorney, and CPA. Additionally, this stage offers an opportunity for parents to enhance their heir’s investment planning skills. Trustee Bootcamp involves adding your most eligible children to the McGowanGroup’s confidential database, where they receive updates on performance tracking and investment planning.


Stage 6: Charitable Planning

In collaboration with your CPA, one simple technique is to make gifts from highly appreciated assets to a church or charity rather than cash, preserving the capital gains tax. More advanced strategies, such as Charitable Lead Trusts and Charitable Remainder Trusts, can save taxes while alive, particularly if a church or charity is a prospective beneficiary. These options, along with Donor Advised Funds, are worth discussing with your CPA and Estate Planning Attorney.


Stage 7: Updates for Tax Changes


The current lifetime estate and gift tax exemption of $12.92 million for 2023 is set to halve, adjusted for inflation, in 2026 due to the sunset of the current law. The recent mandate requiring IRA beneficiaries to withdraw the balance before a 10-year deadline introduces a level of tax planning with the CPA to minimize the estate tax laws’ consequences and maximize benefits.


Stage 8: Gifting and Irrevocable Trusts

For families with substantial investment portfolios, land and property holdings, and family businesses exceeding the 2026 exemption amount (projected to be $7 million or less), preparation often includes gifting to an irrevocable trust using Form 709 and the lifetime gifting exemption. For larger land holdings and mineral rights, planning frequently involves Family Limited Partnerships, allowing for annual gifting of a partnership portion to children while maintaining control and facilitating future legacy planning.


Stage 9: Updates for Life Changes

McGowanGroup Wealth Management has long provided the necessary care, attention & understanding to families undergoing significant life changes. The logistical experience and guidance from The McGowanGroup makes a significant difference during challenging times. Coordination with the estate planning attorney & CPA gives way to prompt solutions that pave the way for legacy success.

Stage 10: Estate Processing, Distributions, and Logistics

Prompt execution of journals, account changes, trust funding, and distributions demands an experienced team committed to a fiduciary duty to the owners and beneficiaries.



For further reading and additional resources on your estate tax planning, consider these articles and websites:

  1. “Estate Planning 101” by Investopedia
  2. “Understanding Estate Taxes” by Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

All McGowanGroup Wealth Management services are provided by McGowanGroup Asset Management, Inc. The McGowanGroup Asset Management, Inc. is a Federally Registered Investment Advisory Firm utilizing Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon Company for asset custody. All material above is provided as informational only and may not apply to you or your specific tax/investment situations.