Begin at the End-Prepare Your Estate Plan First


When planning to go on a trip, you often begin with the destination in mind and then work backward from there. You wouldn’t start packing your bags or planning excursions until you knew where you were going. Once you’ve figured that out, you can decide how you’re going to get there, and what you’ll need once you’ve arrived.

The same strategy should be applied to financial planning. We’re all going to die one day, and we can’t take our assets with us when we go. We make funeral plans in advance so that our loved ones don’t have to make those tough decisions during a difficult time. That’s why it makes practical and financial sense to do estate planning as early as possible in the retirement planning process.

Whitaker quote550x400Andy Whitaker, CRPC®, President and Owner of Gold Tree Financial Inc., employs a holistic financial planning process with every client, beginning with their estate plan. In addition to focusing on the end goal and gathering detailed information about all aspects of the client’s financial life, this strategy has the two-pronged purpose of avoiding unnecessary probate, as well as preventing unintended heirs from taking any part of the estate when the client dies.

“Proper estate planning can help clients to avoid six to eighteen months of unnecessary probate costs, as well as the associated delays, hassles, and publicity,” said Whitaker. “It can also prevent the occurrence of unintended heirs, such as probate attorneys, the surviving spouse’s next partner, or a child’s spouse who divorces them after the client passes on. The goal is to create strategies that help to keep as much of the family’s assets as possible.”

This approach of providing comprehensive financial planning, tax-efficient portfolio construction & management, and estate planning to help clients solve their problems attracted Whitaker to Gold Tree Financial in 2017. He went through a two-year transition process to take over the business from its previous owner, who wanted to find the right person to continue what he had started.

The Gold Tree Financial planning process helps ensure that its clients’ money goes where they want it to go, protects their income for a lifetime, prevents their estate from unnecessarily going through probate, and applies the Money Utility concept to their asset allocation strategy.

“Our process involves laying out a set of solutions that are clearly designed to solve a client’s specific problems,” said Whitaker. “We listen to the client’s concerns and describe different possible outcomes with a list of potential solutions that can mitigate those concerns. We also detail different investment options, explaining the range of results and the tradeoffs.”

Asset allocation is traditionally based on risk tolerance and other factors. Under this strategy, a client’s funds are spread across various investments based on ratios of equities, fixed income, and alternatives. The aim is to balance risk and reward through balancing the percentage in each category, dependent on the client’s age, risk tolerance, and financial goals.

However, the financial planning process at Gold Tree can structure the client’s investments to accomplish an assortment of specific goals, such as taking advantage of growth potential, building retirement income, creating tax efficiencies, establishing wealth transfer benefits, and doing legacy planning. The Money Utility model is effective in achieving these types of goals, as it provides a specific investment option for a specific goal or objective. The focus is on identifying what you want your money to do, which should be the goal at every stage in the financial planning process.

“When evaluating objectives to set up new investments, we define each investment’s purpose, explain why it does what it does, why we’re using it, as well as the possible tradeoffs of using one account versus another,” said Whitaker. “The Money Utility model enables us to take better advantage of volatility, which is different from risk. It has the added benefit of simplifying what we are doing with the client’s investments, and ensuring they know why every decision is made.”

moneyinjar 200x300The Money Utility model will be customized for every client, as everyone has specific needs, income requirements, family situations and so on. It can be difficult to keep track of what different investments and accounts are doing across an entire portfolio. Gold Tree Financial constructs balance sheets for each client so they have a clear picture of their entire financial world. The balance sheet groups their clients’ assets, such as checking accounts, real estate holdings and all financial investments, as well as all their debts, and other characteristics relevant to their specific plan.

“Clients can determine where those assets and debts are grouped according to purpose and need, so they can clearly see where everything is located and where they stand from a financial perspective,” said Whitaker. “The balance sheet also provides data on structuring of beneficiaries and avoidance of probate.”

Estate planning and tax-efficient strategies should be part of a comprehensive financial planning process. It should also consider longevity, as a client or their partner is quite likely to live into their 90s. This means creating a guaranteed income stream that accounts for inflation, changing market conditions, and their effects over time. Gold Tree Financial works with its clients to help ensure that these factors are addressed, as well as how their standard of living will change over their lifetime.

“We go over the long-term care scenario with clients to give them as much information as possible so they can make knowledgeable decisions, such as whether or not to use long-term care insurance to mitigate risk,” said Whitaker. “We let them know some things to expect at different stages in their life, as well as how different events, such as long-term illnesses or unexpected deaths, will affect their budget. It’s essential for helping them to make informed choices.”

For more information on Gold Tree Financial, Inc., visit:


Andy J. Whitaker, CRPC® Registered Representative. Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Broker-Dealer, Member FINRA & SIPC. Advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor, a division of ProEquities, Inc. Gold Tree Financial (GTF), Inc. is independent of ProEquities, Inc.

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