The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils was formed in 1962 and incorporated in 1963. Read our full history HERE. The association’s core belief is that the team concept of estate planning best serves the client. Each program, benefit, and service is developed with this single value in mind.
Now, in 2016, NAEPC boasts over 260 member estate planning councils and provides services to their estimated 29,000 individual members. In addition, the association has nearly 1,800 active Accredited Estate Planner® designees with representation in nearly every state of the country. Our professionals are typically within the accounting, insurance, legal, trust services, or financial planning fields, all with a focus on estate planning. Other professionals are admitted to estate planning councils as their bylaws dictate.
An additional goal of the NAEPC is to encourage specialization programs to increase recognition and acceptance of estate planning as a specialty. NAEPC has two separate and distinct specialization programs:
- Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP®) is available to individuals in the disciplines of accounting, insurance, law, trust services, and insurance & financial planning who have met the requisite requirements, including estate planning experience and recommendations by colleagues, and may require completion of certain graduate estate planning courses. All individuals obtaining the AEP® designation must demonstrate a continued commitment to the team approach to estate planning and adhere to a strict code of ethics.
- Estate Planning Law Specialist (EPLS) is available to attorneys practicing in the estate planning arena. Attorneys who become Board-certified under this program demonstrate a high level of professionalism and commitment to the concept of specialization. This program is run by The Estate Law Specialist Board, Inc., an attorney-run subsidiary of the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.
We welcome you to browse our website for more information about the association. Within you’ll find information just for professionals, for estate planning council leadership, and even for the public! Near the bottom of this page you can read statements with regard to estate planning and their relationship with NAEPC from several top professionals within the field of estate planning.
Estate planning is one of those things that nobody wants to think about until it is time to think about it, and then, it is often too late. After all, who wants to think about what will happen to us if we become ill, can no longer take care of ourselves, or pass away? It is much more pleasant to think about where you will go on your next vacation, what type of car you will drive when your current lease expires, or what color carpet you will put in your new office. However, as we all know, failure to properly plan your estate can lead to unintended consequences for you and your family and result in the loss of significant personal assets. Those of us in the estate planning profession know this all too well, having witnessed it on numerous occasions when clients procrastinated and then a life‐changing event happened. Who knows if we will be on the next Amtrak train that crashes or the next airplane that a pilot decides to fly into a mountain?
As estate planning professionals, our job is to not only encourage clients to plan ahead, but to make sure that they, in fact, do plan ahead. If our advice falls on deaf ears, what have we accomplished? Perhaps we have a nice letter in our file protecting our interests and documenting that we tried to motivate the client to proceed with planning. Whose interest does that serve? It certainly does not help the client in any way while they lie incapacitated in the hospital after having suffered a stroke but have not yet executed a durable power of attorney or advance health care directive. We need to do better. Clients rely on our experience and wisdom in this area. We are the ones who can share the horror stories of those clients who did not adequately plan ahead and the consequences they and their families were forced to endure. We need to share these stories with clients who, for one reason or another, are not taking the necessary steps to make things easier for themselves and their loved ones. Advising clients what to do is one thing, making sure they do it is what really matters. If each of us would help just one client over the finish line to complete their estate planning, there would be thousands of families who would be spared the anguish of not having a proper estate plan in place. Isn’t that why we got into the estate planning profession in the first place?
WHO WE ARE, April 2016 by John S. Scott, Jr., CPA, AEP®, CGMA
Estate planning, now more than ever, should occur with a team approach involving cross-professional disciplines assisting the client to meet their goals. The team needs a balance sheet, a summary of the current estate plan, and an understanding of the clients’ wishes and goals. With those facts, planning points can be identified and shared with clients that align with their goals.
The estate tax for the middle rich is no longer the driving motivation for planning. Trust laws were developed in England during the Crusades as a way for the grantor to give property to the trustee to carry out the grantor’s wishes during their absence. Now, current planning can get back to focusing on what does the grantor want to do with their assets in their absence or demise. So we can really use trust for the original purpose.
Any family with more than one child or grandchild knows that each of those beneficiaries or heirs is going to have different strengths and weaknesses. More and more families are meeting to educate family members about investment philosophies and the philanthropy of the family. The NAEPC is a group of estate planning professionals working as a team helping clients achieve their goals.
WHO WE ARE, February 2016 by Natalie B. Choate, Esq., AEP® (Distinguished)
Not all is rosy when the multiple estate planning disciplines interact. In my role as a writer and speaker on estate planning for IRAs, I hear the complaints and sometimes have to act as referee. We should all work together, yes....but DO we?
Here are some stories I hear again and again. I hope you will not recognize yourself!
- Often the financial planner or CPA/PFS knows a great deal more about the minimum distribution rules for IRAs than the estate planning attorney knows. But the lawyer will not deign to listen to anyone else because he/she is a LAWYER and knows everything. A warning to my fellow estate planning attorneys: This attitude could get you in big trouble! Indulge in a little free education from the financial planner once in a while.
- Then I get a call from a lawyer complaining about the financial advisor who met with the widow right after the funeral and persuaded her to roll over her deceased spouse’s retirement plan IMMEDIATELY into her own IRA at the advisor’s firm. A rollover wasn’t best for this surviving spouse, but the advisor was more worried about losing the account than about the client’s financial well being. Note to financial planners: A hasty rollover when the client retires or the spouse dies may get you a quick account and a lawsuit to follow. Wait until the rollover is blessed by the tax expert!
When working with our clients’ hyper-tax-sensitive and rule-laden retirement benefits, the best long term results come from avoiding mistakes. If we pool all our expertise and work together everybody wins except the IRS!
As estate planners, we help our clients plan their estates in the most transfer tax efficient and protective manner. However, we are also the trusted advisors that clients call upon in the hardest times, whether those times involve an illness in the family or discord among family members. When dealing with a family going through a difficult time, the advisor must remember which family member is the client and do his or her best to act in the client’s best interests. In order to effectively represent the client’s best interests, the estate planner must work with the client’s other advisors as a team. Whether the most trusted advisor to the client is the CPA, financial advisor, attorney or trust officer, all should be on the same page and involved in the client’s estate plan. When an advisor is left out of the integrated estate plan, the client and the client’s family may suffer.
Along those lines, staying actively involved in your local estate planning council is vital. As the current President of the Southern Nevada Estate Planning Council and a member for the past 10 years, I have experienced firsthand the sense of comradery that participation in a local counsel provides. Further, learning different philosophies and aspects of estate planning, whether at local meetings or through resources at NAEPC, helps not only us as advisors, but also our clients. Active participation in your local counsel and in NAEPC can help ensure that you remain the trusted advisor to your client and your client’s family.
WHO WE ARE, March 2015 by Al W. King, III, JD, LL.M., AEP® (Distinguished)
Most of the successful companies and sports teams attribute their success to the team concept. The best teams all understand each other’s role and most importantly the ultimate goal or goals. As the Hall of Fame professional football coach Vince Lombardi once said “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual”. This epitomizes the NAEPC concept of a multi-disciplinary team to estate planning. Having worked at a fee-based financial planning firm, national securities firm, national insurance company, regional bank, “Big Four” CPA firm, international money center bank, law firm, and now a founder of a trust company without products, I came to realize firsthand over the years the importance of multi-disciplinary teamwork regarding a client’s estate planning. I also came to realize that this teamwork takes many forms. [READ MORE] Despite the form or approach, the first step is to ensure that the client is award of the various estate planning issues, both tax and non-tax, so that they and their family can properly address them. More than 80% of the people in this country do not even have wills. Many more lack financial and healthcare powers of attorney. Others have wills but have not coordinated them with their jointly held and beneficiary designated assets. These are very basic, but important, estate planning necessities that may need to be supplemented by more sophisticated estate planning strategies in many instances. The bottom line is the client needs to recognize these important issues and discuss them with their advisors and take action.
One of NAEPCs very important missions is to provide education programs designed to educate the public so that they recognize the importance of estate planning as well as the benefits of the multi-disciplinary approach to their estate planning. NAEPC accomplishes these goals through estate planning awareness programs, webinars, a powerful website and Journal, etc.
Another very important aspect of the NAEPC mission is to educate advisors as to the importance of the multi-disciplinary team concept and the many ways to maximize this approach. Additionally, NAEPC strives to educate an update the members of the multi-disciplinary team with cutting-edge educational conferences/seminars, forums/meetings, journals and websites, all conducted and authorized by industry experts from across the country. The advisors that excel in the multi-disciplinary team concept are awarded with the AEP® and EPLS designations by NAEPC.
I would like to conclude as I conclude many of my speeches: “Nobody plans to fail, but people often fail if they do not plan”. It is NAEPCs goal to increase estate planning awareness and education to ensure that multi-disciplinary planning happens and they have been successfully doing so since 1962. Please see www.NAEPC.org to start or grow your awareness!
WHO WE ARE, August 2014 by Lawrence M. Lehmann, JD, AEP®
We, as estate planning professionals, all share a common goal to help our clients make wise choices about holding, growing and transferring their wealth. It is important to remember that our clients need to achieve clarity of purpose in order to make meaningful choices. What is a client's true motivation to engage in estate planning? Is it only estate and income tax avoidance or is it something much more important?
The most helpful thing we as estate planning professionals can do for our clients is to begin our conversations with one simple question: Why? Why do you really want to plan your estate? You might be surprised at the answers you receive. Some individuals may have concerns about their own financial independence. Some may have concerns about the needs of family members. Some have passionate philanthropic goals. Some may focus on the meaning and value of their own lives. Starting the estate planning conversations with "Why" before explaining "How" can assure us that our recommendations are consistent with our client's own mission, vision, values and goals.
Unfortunately, planning often begins with conflicting recommendations by professionals from different disciplines. The usual result is nothing gets implemented because the client does not understand why each professional is making different recommendations.
NAEPC promotes the collaborative approach to estate planning by members of all estate planning professions in order that the client achieve the best possible estate planning result through actually implementing a well thought out estate plan. What a better way to collaborate than by starting the process with a clear understanding of the client's mission, vision, values, and goals. With the entire team understanding the client's "why", the team will have the information to make a unified recommendation of "how.”
WHO WE ARE, May 2014
"Who are we as fiduciaries? A little common sense." / Ronald Duska, PhD
With all the talk and legalese surrounding the notion of “fiduciary duty” it is helpful to remember that the issue is not as complicated as attorneys and regulators like to make it. If we look at the ordinary uses of words rather than the regulatory overkill we find that those meanings are often quite simple. Basic meanings of words are important, because language is the glue that binds us together as a group. To distort the meanings of words is to looen those bonds. Those bonds create an “ethos” or custom which informs us about what is acceptable behavior—ethics.
If the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is correct in asserting that the meaning of a word is often found by looking at what it is used for, we can get quite clear about fiduciary duty. So in the case of “fiduciary” we can get to the basic meaning by asking what is a fiduciary for. Simply it is to give advice, and the purpose of advice is for the advisor to help the advisee. The advisee puts his faith and trust in the advisee. Hence…fiduciary. An advisor who puts his own interest first, fails to be an advisor and violates his fiduciary role.
The group of professional planners have bonds and an ethos (practices) which sets forth customary acceptable ways of doing things. As a planning professional you give advice. Giving advice implies looking out for the other. Advisors cannot exist in a society where everyone is looking out exclusively for oneself. Hence the fact that we have the word advisor in our vocabulary means we have ethical rules embedded in that vocabulary. To be an advisor is to put the good of the advisee, in our case the client, first. If you do that, your client can have faith in your word. That means your client can trust you to look out for their interest. Their interest comes first. That doesn’t mean that you cannot look out for your own interest. It just means that when functioning as an advisor your interests need to be set aside if they conflict with your client's.
It is important to note, though, that when those ethical bonds and commitments which are important break down we may need explicit rules with penalties attached to persuade us to conform to them. This is where compliance enters the scene. In a healthy society ethics comes first because it provides the rules for behavior. The law is society’s tool for making sure that the members act ethically. If they don’t, society sets up punishments to make sure they do. So ethics is the spirit of the law. Ethics comes first. Compliance comes second. To be compliant and violate the spirit of the law, is to be unethical. To act only to be compliant is to act to cover one’s own interests rather than to put the interests of the client first. We have too much emphasis on compliance and not enough on ethics.
Most of the talk and concern about getting “clear” about the meaning of “fiduciary” today is the result of forgetting the ethical demands of a fiduciary (other concern) in an attempt to cover one’s own interest, on the part of planners or companies. The endless discussion of the difference between suitability and fiduciary responsibility indicates that the concern is not in keeping faith with the client so much as it is to protect one’s own interest. Trust and faith are the heart of the fiduciary relationship. Covering one’s own interest first is not. There is nothing as disturbing as someone who games this system. To do something that benefits oneself, by doing what is legal but not in the interest of the client who put his faith in you, is to be compliant but not ethical.
WHO WE ARE, September 2013
A word about the team approach to estate planning by April Caudill, JD, CLU®, ChFC®, AEP®
I find it difficult to imagine trying to engage in estate planning without a team approach. The very best advisors know that no one person can know everything, and it is only with the services of the entire team, particularly legal, tax and insurance experts, that all the client’s needs and potential issues can be properly addressed. Whether it is making sure the client’s will, business succession plans and beneficiary designations line up with each other, or helping the client plan his or her legacy, every step of the estate planning process requires communication, coordination and teamwork by the professional advisors working together. I see this in action frequently when answering questions for our Financial Representatives at Northwestern Mutual and helping them coordinate and communicate potential planning strategies with their clients’ advisors. In a best case scenario, the team members are members of a local association in which they can network, get to know who they are working with, and build trust.
WHO WE ARE, August 2013
A word about the team approach to estate planning by Terri L. Getman, JD, CLU®, ChFC®, AEP® (Distinguished)
From the start of my advisory support to insurance/financial representatives, I’ve stressed that the estate planning process must be a collaborative effort involving the client’s team of advisors. My experience is that the insurance/financial representative is often the one that is motivating the client to initiate the planning process. From there, the CPA and the attorney are brought in for the development of the plan. Typically, the attorney and the CPA take the lead in identifying possible strategies and running the numbers. The insurance/financial representative often provides input into the plan design as it relates to financial products. Other professionals may be included in the team depending on the client’s situation. For example, it’s not unusual to have trust officers and valuation experts as members of the estate team. Working together, each with an area of expertise, the team is able to develop a cohesive plan that will enhance and protect the client’s financial security during life, and will transfer during life or at death the legacy the client wishes to leave to other individuals or organizations. My experience is that when the design of the estate plan is developed as a team the client is more likely to move to the implementation step of the estate planning process, and this step is more likely to proceed with each member acting in unison.
WHO WE ARE, June 2013
A word about the team approach to estate planning by William D. Kirchick, Esq., AEP®
As an estate planning attorney, among the most important goals in working with my clients is to make their estate plan tax-efficient and give them some peace of mind that the security of their family will be well provided for. However, these goals cannot be achieved in a vacuum but must rely on the team approach of working with accountants, trust officers, insurance agents and financial advisors, all of whom pursue the same goals as I do. NAEPC and the affiliated local councils all share the unique interdisciplinary approach of working together to help our clients attain a high degree of financial literacy and an estate plan that will provide a high level of satisfaction. Having held the Accredited Estate Planner® designation for over 17 years now assures the other members of the team whom I work with that I possess the skills and experience necessary to carry out what my clients seek to obtain for their family’s financial well-being and that of successive generations. Being recognized with the AEP® designation, which is only conferred by NAEPC, is not only a means of fulfilling one’s personal aspirations, but also gives the client a degree of comfort in knowing they will be working with a highly qualified professional to accomplish their goals.
A word about the "team approach" to estate planning by Richard M. Weber, MBA, CLU®, AEP® (Distinguished)
My "team" is a little different than most. In my consulting practice I promote myself as an Insurance Fiduciary. There, my team is the client, the insurance company, the insurance agent, and the ILIT trustee (as applicable). Our purpose is to collaborate on an annual or bi-annual schedule to make sure that life insurance policies are meeting the objectives specified in a customized Life Insurance Property Management Statement (similar to an Investment Management Statement for investment management). Our firm utilizes life insurance management data not readily available from other sources and renders customized, actuarially certified management reports.
In the broader context of the planning world, my team consists of the leaders of the Society of FSP, NAEPC, MDRT, NAILBA, NAIFA, NAHU, and AALU (among other organizations) as we deal with the ways in which major issues can affect us. A current example is the push toward the "F"-word - that is - Fiduciary. At the Society of FSP, our members take seriously their commitment to "place our client's interests above our own." While this is a major component of fiduciary duties, this operating principle is a more practical guide than the word "fiduciary duty" to help our members and their staffs consistently serve their clients in a professional manner. Other organizations in the planning "space" are also looking at the unintended consequences of applying legal standards that convey more obligation than is necessary - or desired - by the client.
A word about the team approach to estate planning by Hartman Axley, CLU®, ChFC®, JD, CFP®, MSFS, RHU, AEP®
A violent debate, if not an open conflict, exists in the insurance world today over the meaning and application of the term “insurable interest” which is the foundation of all insurance. Overlooked by most, is the US Supreme Court case of Grigsby v. Russell, 222 U.S. 149 (1911) in whose opinion, none other than Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, stated: “The very meaning of an insurable interest is an interest in having the life continue and so one that is opposed to crime.” He went on to say, “A contract of insurance upon a life in which the insured has no interest is a pure wager that gives the insured a sinister counter interest in having the life come to an end.”
Chief Justice Holmes also states that as to “a person having no interest in the life insured…public policy refuses to allow insurance to be taken out by such persons in the first place.” He further ruled, “…the chance that in some cases it may prove a sufficient motive for crime is greatly enhanced if the whole world of the unscrupulous are free to vet on what life they choose.” Thus, I submit that this is the “common law” (case law) of the land (USA) concerning Stranger Originated Life Insurance (STOLI) which should be called (SILI) Stranger Initiated Life Insurance to avoid confusion with (SOLI) which is Stranger Owned Life Insurance.
Mr. Justice Holmes also spoke to Stranger Owned Life Insurance (SOLI) as follows: “Obviously it is a very different thing…to allow the holder of a valid insurance upon his own life to transfer it to one whom he, a party most concerned, is not afraid to trust.” Thus, Stranger Owned Life Insurance (SOLI) is not against public policy or unlawful per se if the ownership changes by valid assignment.
One other statement of interest from this decision: “On the other hand, life insurance has become in our days one of the best recognized forms of investment and self-compelled savings. So far as reasonable safety permits, it is desirable to give to life policies the ordinary characteristics of property…To deny the right to sell except to persons having such an interest is to diminish appreciably the value of the contract in the owner's hands… And cases in which a person having an interest lends himself to one without any, as a cloak to what is, in its inception, a wager, have no similarity to those where an honest contract is sold in good faith.”
This case and these statements appear to me to have great relevance in today’s insurance and estate planning professions.
A word about the team approach to estate planning by Gary L. Flotron, MBA, CLU, ChFC, AEP®
It is hard to believe that I have now held the Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP®) designation for 16 years. Yet the meaning and the reasons for wanting to acquire the designation have not changed over this timeframe but have only been reinforced with the passage of time. There are six professional designations that have long been associated with the field of estate planning. However, with the possible exception of the CTFA designation, these professional designations do not connote a practice or expertise exclusively devoted to estate planning.
For example, an attorney could be practicing in the field of criminal law, and a CPA could be specializing in the auditing of financial statements for public corporations or income tax planning. A person with my particular designations, the CLU and ChFC, could be specializing in the group insurance field or in general financial counseling and planning. So I wanted a designation that was the highest accreditation that recognized my expertise in the field of estate planning. The fact that this designation was awarded by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC), a multi discipline organization dedicated to the team concept of estate planning, only enhanced the prestige of having this designation.
When I received the designation in 1995 I had no idea that I would line up a Board member of NAEPC, Chair of the AEP® Designation Committee with the job of revamping the program and tightening the standards, and, eventually, President of NAEPC. However, what I learned doing that tenure is that the purpose for establishing the AEP® designation in 1990 were the exact same reasons for which I wanted to acquire the designation in the first place. An additional feature of this designation is the fact that it is really a graduate level specialization designation in estate planning. It is over and above the education and experience required for the six professional credentials necessary for qualifying to obtain the AEP® designation.
Last, but certainly not least, is that the AEP® designation stands for excellence, competence, ethics and professionalism. These virtues are vital and paramount in advising and working with clients on their estate plans. In short, the AEP® designation is the paradigm of what an accreditation should represent in the field of estate planning.
A word about the team approach to estate planning by M. Eileen Dougherty, CTFA, CFP®, AEP®, ChFC®
The trust officer’s job on the estate planning team continues the focus the other members share as they work with the multifaceted lives of their clients and beneficiaries. The ultimate purpose of a good estate plan is one that meets the client’s goals. For some the primary focus may be tax savings or the protection of challenged family members while others strive to sustain a legacy that will reach many generations. A holistic approach to the plan will incorporate all the aspects of the client’s life that they want to have documented and managed from a financial perspective and still honor their personal need to be treated with dignity and respect at times when they are not able to communicate their wishes on a consistent basis.
As client’s lives evolve through the years their needs change as do the needs of their loved ones and their personal plan needs to be flexible enough to evolve and yet be adaptable to changes within the law. For trust officers, members of the team will be both inside and outside their firms and an open dialogue that maintains the client’s best interest as the primary focus will insure a more beneficial result. People today are bombarded with information everywhere they go about financial and estate planning in a way that would lead you to believe that most plans are a one-size-fits-all matter. The reality is that some needs can be met with a standard array of documents and services, but the art is in the details of a custom fit.
A word about the team approach to estate planning by Walter Lee Davis, Jr., Atty, CPA, AEP®, EPLS
Since becoming an AEP®, I have consciously strived to engage the whole team of estate planners, preferably AEP® designees, from the various disciplines when working on an estate plan for a client. I send every client a Client Info Packet that gives them data sheets to complete so I have the facts. You can’t plan without the facts! The packet also includes client educational materials about both TN and US gift taxes, TN Inheritance tax, US Estate tax, US GST tax and how these taxes work, including hypothetical examples, so the client can better understand these complex topics about which they generally have only scant information. It has info, including examples, about Crummey powers, GRATs, CRUTs, CLATs and all sorts of things I think a client needs to know.
I include a full page devoted to the NAEPC Team Concept of Estate Planning with space for the client to name his team members and provide their contact data. NAEPC members are authorized to use it as they choose, making whatever revisions they deem helpful for their particular practice.
A word about the team approach to estate planning by Gregory E. Sellers, CPA, AEP®
The “Team Approach” to estate planning – sometimes these words seem trite, but they are so true. When determining how to best serve my estate planning clients, I realize that the client is best served by a team of estate planning professionals. I, the CPA, have probably the regular contact with the client since I plan and assist the client with their income tax filings. I act as the quarterback for the team. Much like reading defenses and calling play schemes, I gather information from the clients to make calculations and find out their wishes and desires. From there, I call in the other skill players, attorney for will and trust drafting, life insurance and financial planning professionals to provide liquidity and achieve returns on the existing assets, and trust officers for administration and asset protection. All of these individuals enhance the other, making sure that the client receives the best service in their best interest. In these days of unethical behavior by many different professional "advisors", it is good to know that the team that I work with and to whom I refer clients embraces the team concept and the Accredited Estate Planner® code of ethics in addition to their own professional discipline.