How to Become an Estate Planner


The first step to becoming an estate planner is determining whether or not you’re a good fit for this field. Does the following describe you?


• You’re business minded and empathetic

• You enjoy consulting people and directing their activities

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to gathering information

• You’re interested in general investment, estate, financial, trust and taxation issues


Read on below to find out more about the ins and outs of this career; we’ll fill you in on all the details, including an overview of what you would be doing, how much you could earn, and what you’ll need to break into this field!



What is an Estate Planner?

An estate planner is responsible for providing a client with legal, financial and accounting advice aimed at ensuring the long term financial protection of that client’s estate. They help ensure that any assets are dispersed according to the wishes of the deceased, and that any debts and remaining taxes are paid.



Education Needed to Become an Estate Planner

You'll likely need an undergraduate degree in a field that involves a financial or estate planning component, such as accounting or finance. Some employers may prefer that you have an advanced degree or a professional designation in one of these areas (such as a CA or CPA credential), or a degree in law. 





Certification Needed

The specific, complex, and constantly-changing nature of estate planning demands up-to-date industry knowledge. For this reason, many employers prefer to hire candidates with estate planning certification, or financial planning certification.


Success Tip: In addition to being a common employment pre-requisite, being certified also elevates your credibility as an advisor, which helps in developing business and advancing your career.



Certification Programs in Canada

The most prominent certification program in Canada the Certificate and Estate Planning and Trust Strategy administered by the Canadian Securities Institute.



Programs in the United States

There are a variety of certification programs available in the United States, including:


Certified Estate Planner (CEP)

Chartered Trust and Estate Planner (CTEP)

Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA)

Accredited Estate Planner (AEP)



General Job Description

As an estate planner, your first objective is to have a discussion with your client regarding their end-of-life needs, and the assets and debts that will make up their estate. Since you're familiar with relevant federal and local laws, you'd then advise the client on how best to administer their estate.


When a client dies, it’s your duty to review the documents associated with their last will and testament, insurance policies, unpaid bills and any trust funds. You'd then be responsible for distributing property, paying debts and taxes, and administering any trust monies.



Typical Job Duties

Although the duties you would perform can vary from job to job, you would generally be responsible for the following:


• Studying the wills, trusts, business agreements, life insurance policies, government benefits and other legal instruments of clients

• Reviewing the assets and liabilities of an estate in order to determine if current insurance coverage is adequate financial protection for the estate

• Determining the value of the estate by calculating expenses, taxes and debts

• Maintaining current knowledge of relevant accounting and taxation laws

• Suggesting purchase of additional or new life insurance when analysis of estate indicates a need for meeting cash demands at death

• Liaising with family attorney to determine if any changes in the legal structure of the estate need to be made





Technical Skills Needed to Be Successful

In order to qualify for work as an estate planner, and succeed when you get there, you'll need to be able to demonstrate a certain set of skills, including:


• Knowledge of relevant estate, tax, trust, incapacity, business, family and charity law

• Legal drafting and interpretation skills

• Specialized knowledge of trust and related administration

• An understanding of how various types of insurance operate


Coursework in financial planning that's part of a degree or professional certification program will teach you the technical skills you’ll need!



Is Estate Planning Right for You?

In order to survive the ups and downs of working in this field, you’ll need to have certain core competencies, personal traits, as well as professional interests:


• You’re able to encourage open discussion of a client's last wishes

• You’re empathetic and capable of establishing trust with others

• You’re able to work with surviving family, friends and associates in a sensitive but businesslike manner

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to gathering information

• You enjoy consulting with people and directing their activities

• You have a willingness to keep up to date with relevant laws, regulations and practices

• You have a keen interest in communicating with clients about general investment, estate, financial, trust, taxation issues 



Who Employs Them?

As an estate planner, you may be employed by a small estate and trust planning businesses, or be self-employed. Alternatively, you may be employed on a full-time basis or contract your services to larger firms and organizations such as:


• Trust and estate companies

• Banks and other lending institutions

• Stock brokerage firms

• Insurance agencies

• Legal firms

• Accounting firms

• Mutual fund companies

• Private financial planning companies



Estate Planner Average Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as an estate planner can vary, depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The size and type of your employer (including if you’re self-employed)

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Estate Planner Salary - Canada: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Financial Planners occupational group (which includes Estate Planners and Administrators) earn an average salary of $77,878 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 9, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Personal Financial Advisors occupational group is $81,060 per year.



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "estate planner" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Work Environment Typical to This Profession

Hours: As an estate planner, you would most likely work full time, although part-time positions may be available. A good portion of your work would be during normal office hours during the week, although you’d sometimes have to work during the evenings and weekends, in order to meet with existing and potential clients.


Setting: You might work alone from home or with others in a fully equipped office. You might have to travel to meetings at clients' homes or places of business.


Working Conditions: As with any other career, your work as an estate planner could be stressful at times, such as when you are having trouble finding new clients, communicating with them, or when your clients are dissatisfied with the service they are receiving. 



Career Advancement Possibilities

Performing your duties with competence, and demonstrating a good work ethic can afford you plenty of career advancement options.


For example, you may be promoted to supervisory or management positions within your organization, or receive a higher salary. If self-employed, you may find that your client base grows as your positive reputation develops. 



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as "estate planner":



Financial Planner

Financial Advisor

• Funeral Director

Insurance Agent

Investment Portfolio Manager





Please consult the following resources to learn more about the various aspects of a career as an estate planner.


Occupations in Alberta:Financial Planner.” (March 30, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Business & Financial:Personal Financial Advisors.” (September 4, 2019. Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Credentials:Certificate in Estate Planning and Trust Strategy.” (n.d.). Canadian Securities Institute website. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Graduate Blog:3 Reasons an Estate Planning Career Might Be Right For You.” (June 12, 2018). Northeastern University website. Retrieved November 17, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Estate Planner

All of the scholarships found on our Accounting Scholarships and Finance Scholarships page are relevant for becoming an estate planner.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or are necessary) for getting started in this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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