How to Become an Estate Planner

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An estate planner is a professional who helps plan individual and corporate estates, as defined as the collection of assets accumulated during the lifetime of the person or entity. Estate planning includes tax planning, drafting a last will and trust, setting up trust funds and planning for charitable contributions.

  • Complete an advanced degree in finance, law or accounting. Any of these degree programs will give you the educational background you will need to work as an estate planner.

  • Enroll in a CEP (Certified Estate Planner) program. These programs are offered by numerous companies. The most prestigious is the National Institute of Certified Estate Planners.

  • Complete the required course work for your CEP certification. Your coursework will cover the basics of estate planning, gifting, joint ownership accounts, POD accounts, revocable living trusts, wills and special trust formations. The courses that are required by the NICEP (in order) are: the Basics of Estate Planning, the Path Your Client Can Take From Here, What Path Should Your Client Take From Here, Types of Wills and Revocable Trusts, Essential Elements of a Good Will and Good Living Trust, Special Wills and Trust Provisions for Special Situations, Funding to Revocable Living Trust and Living with a Will and with a Revocable Living Trust.

  • Take and pass comprehensive exams for each of the above courses. If you select to take these courses via distance education you will be required to use a test proctor. Once you have passed each course you will be qualified to sit for the CEP exam, which is a 100 question comprehensive exam that covers everything you learned in your CEP courses. These questions are multiple choice. You are elegible to take the test as many times as you need, you will be required to pay a $10 re-testing fee.

  • Meet all continued professional education requirements, which will vary depending on what professional license you have, i.e. CPA, attorney, etc. However, you will generally need between eight and 16 credits every two years. You can select the CPE courses that you want to take as long as they relate to estate planning. For example you can take CPE courses in advanced estate planning, advanced legal issues for living wills or advanced trusts and revocable wills.

  • Agree to follow the professional ethics standards set out by the NICEP. This will involve reading a form that outlines the professional ethics upheld by this organization, such as to protect the confidentiality of your client's information and not engage in illegal or immoral professional activities. You will then sign the statement to certify that you have read, understood and will abide by the ethical standards detailed in the document.

  • Start promoting yourself as a Certified Estate Planner. You can find work as an estate planner by first promoting your new services to current clients. You can also look for a position as a CEP in want ads published on the "Monster" job board, or in professional journals like the CPA Journal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Estate planning is a complex process that requires an in-depth understanding of many subjects including estate laws, taxation, accounting and family politics.

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