Helpful hints in the hunt for a fee-only financial planner

Q: Articles on financial matters frequently suggest that fee-only financial advisers are a sensible way for people who are not experts in the field to get unbiased advice. But finding a fee-only adviser has proven to be quite challenging. Are there directories for such people or other ways you can suggest for locating them?
D.S., via e-mail

A: Look no further than your yellow pages, under 'financial planners.' Those who offer their services for a fee are typically only too happy to let people know, in order to set themselves apart from planners who collect commissions or fees on products that you buy if they recommend them.

If you're up to a little extra effort, log onto This is the website for the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, which is the trade association for planners who charge only fees. Once at the site, you can enter your zip code - along with some personal data that they say they won't share with anyone else - and it will kick back contact information on fee-only planners as far as 200 miles from your home.

In a helpful fashion, the website offers tidbits on the background of the planners, and their specialties.

NAPFA has about 1,300 members across the country. But there are other fee-only planners who don't belong to the organization, and to find them you'll have to either go to the phone book or call individual planners and ask them directly.

Q: Can the executor or substitute executor of a will also be one of the primary beneficiaries? My nephew is the primary beneficiary, and his wife will be an executor. Can she be named as a beneficiary as well?
S.J., Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Any person over 18 who hasn't been convicted of a felony can be named as executor of a will. Some people choose a lawyer, accountant, or financial consultant because of his or her expertise and knowledge of the deceased's financial affairs, says Jim Erwin, a certified financial planner in Little Rock, Ark. Others appoint a spouse, adult child, relative, or friend, especially if the estate's value is small.

Generally, Mr. Erwin says, a family member or friend expects little or no pay for settling the estate and is eager to get things settled quickly and smoothly.

The executor can also be a beneficiary of the estate, he adds.

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