Executing estate planning documents is not difficult but it does require attention to detail. Documents must be executed correctly to avoid problems using the documents that may arise when your client dies. The following are guidelines to ensure that you execute your client's estate-planning documents in a professional manner:
- Do not let anything delay getting your client's completed estate-planning documents executed. Time is of the essence. Nothing is more tragic than to have a client unexpectedly die with their estate-planning documents completed but not executed. You do not want to be blamed for any unnecessary delay. If a delay is unavoidable -- contact us immediately.
- Do not give legal advice. You are not an attorney. You cannot explain how a specific document impacts your client's situation. You cannot make suggestions about wording or document content. Any questions about the estate plan should be referred to us.
- Do not notarize any document in advance of the client's actual signature.
- Do not notarize any document that is incomplete, has blank spaces or unanswered questions. Pay particular attention to Health Care Directives. The Health Care Directive has many items that are to be completed by the client.
- Do not allow anyone named in the document or who is legal heir to act as a witness on any document. Their status as a witness can be contested upon death.
- Do not allow a minor (anyone under the age of 18) to act as a witness on any document. Minors are not permitted by law to act as a witness.
- Do not combine investment or insurance product sales with the execution of estate-planning documents without prior written disclosure. It is imperative that your client knows when your role changes from estate planner to product sales person.