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FAs Fielding Numerous Trust, Estate Planning Questions

By Miriam Rozen April 27, 2020

Coronavirus fears, dramatic interest-rate drops and volatile market conditions have prompted conversations among advisors, clients and prospects about starting or revising trust and estate plans.

About 80% of clients and prospects calling in recent weeks have asked about tweaking or completing estate planning and not about the markets, says Matt Celenza, managing partner of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Boulevard Family Wealth, who took his $1 billion team from Merrill Lynch to go independent and partner with Dynasty Financial Network two years ago.

“We’re receiving incoming calls from people … asking us questions about what to do, how to do it,” says Celenza.

Rick Simonetti’s team at Wells Fargo has also had more calls from clients about estate planning, with FAs reporting a 10% increase recently in clients seeking those services.

The “outreach” his firm has engaged in around market volatility has addressed many clients’ concerns, says Simonetti, head of wealth planning for the private bank unit of Wells Fargo.

Between 8,000 to 10,000 people have registered for the firm’s daily online briefings about market volatility, taking the pressure off FAs to address those fears, Simonetti says.

But his FAs have both been making and receiving calls related to estate planning.

The confluence of clients’ coronavirus-spurred fears about change of life events, the market plunging to new lows and interest rates declining have created conditions which understandably make investors review their estate plans, Simonetti says.

Yet with coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders in California, New York and other states, his team’s FAs don’t handle clients’ estate planning in person, as they usually would, but through video conferences, online analytical tools and other communication apps, Simonetti says.

Simonetti welcomes the news that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has lifted for his state one barrier to getting estate planning finalized under conditions barring nonessential gatherings.

Normally, New York, like most states, requires notaries to have in-person contact when providing their services to finalize the signing of wills and other trust-related documents. But under an executive order issued last week, Cuomo allowed notaries to use instead “audio-video technology” that allows for “direct interaction” between the notary and signatories. That’s as long as the signers present photo identifications during the video session and “not merely transmit it prior to or after.”

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