Eric W. Bond is the founder and president of Bond Wealth Management, a wealth management firm located in Long Beach, Calif., providing pre-retirees and retirees with retirement planning, investment, estate and insurance services. With over 23 years of experience, Bond specializes in identifying potential problems within estate plans and provides strategies that help organize and preserve assets. He is also passionate about helping his clients grow, preserve and pass their wealth in a tax-efficient manner to future generations. He does this by taking an all-encompassing approach that considers all aspects of an individual’s financial picture.

Russ Alan Prince: Your firm provides traditional wealth management services but specializes in identifying potential problems within estate plans and providing strategies that help organize and preserve assets. Tell us about Bond Wealth Management and how you specifically help families avoid costly estate planning errors. 

Eric Bond: Our approach to financial planning emphasizes the importance of pragmatic planning and proactive estate management to help ensure our clients’ and their families' long-term financial well-being. To take a truly holistic approach, we take into consideration all of the assets a client has, even what we aren’t managing ourselves. We do this because, in our experience, I have come to find that the assets that advisors don’t make money on can often fall through the cracks and ultimately create the costliest errors for clients later on down the road. By taking into account every single asset in a client’s life, we are able to create an estate plan that is built on a proper foundation and ensures not only that their assets are distributed according to their wishes but also minimizes the impact of taxes.

So, our work typically starts by gathering a client’s assets, giving us a comprehensive examination that scrutinizes everything from bank accounts to life insurance policies to other investments that aren’t under our management. We even identify if a client is in line for an inheritance and the potential assets they stand to receive in the coming years. This ultimately leads to us create what we call a ‘playbook’ for each of our clients outlining strategic moves and recommendations to optimize their financial future and achieve their goals.

Prince: Can you expand more on your ‘playbook’? How does this help your clients consider all of their assets?

Bond: Our playbook is an instrument thoughtfully designed for clients to categorize every single aspect of their financial life. Too often, when it comes to estate planning, clients fall victim to the assumption that if they have a living trust set up, everything is taken care of. Unfortunately, a living trust does not communicate where exactly one’s money is located and how much is there. Working as audit, the playbook essentially creates a conversation to help identify any potential estate plan problems for a client before it becomes a bigger problem for the next generation.

In addition to helping organize a client’s assets, the playbook also gathers every other piece of vital information that should be included in one’s estate plans. It captures specific details such as important login information to access various accounts, even utility bills and social media accounts. It clearly states the beneficiaries for every single asset as well as contingent beneficiaries.

It even has a tab for funeral instructions, which includes one of my favorite components of the playbook, which is called a “love letter.” This “love letter” explicitly communicates every single detail, including burial wishes, tombstone language, funeral song selection, and more. As anyone can imagine, when you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to do is plan the details of their funeral. By providing this level of detail, our clients can not only alleviate this burden on their families but also ensure their exact wishes are executed.

Prince: What does the future hold for estate planning? Will the demand for an estate planning organizer like your playbook continue to rise?

Bond: The future of estate planning appears to be increasingly complex and dynamic, driven mostly by evolving tax laws and regulations. As tax laws continue to change, there has been a growing demand for specialized knowledge and proactive planning strategies within the financial industry. The implementation of a comprehensive playbook like ours, containing detailed instructions and preferences for estate management, is like a roadmap for a surviving spouse as well as their loved ones and is likely to become more prevalent as individuals seek to navigate the complexities of tax regulations and ensure the smooth transition of assets to beneficiaries.

With looming changes in estate tax laws, such as the potential sunset in 2026 and proposed reductions in exemptions, the need for strategic estate planning tools like SLATs—Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts—is on the rise. As history shows, estate taxes have remained a consistent fixture, originating as a Stamp Tax to fund wars. Therefore, the necessity for thorough and adaptable estate planning measures, including the utilization of playbooks and other strategic tools, is expected to grow in importance to manage assets and mitigate tax liabilities in the future effectively.

Russ Alan Prince is a strategist for family offices and the ultra-wealthy. He has co-authored 70 books in the field, including Making Smart Decisions: How Ultra-Wealthy Families Get Superior Wealth Planning Results.