Professional Designations

What Is an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP)?

By  Ash and Pri

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An Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) is an estate planning professional recognized by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC). An AEP commits to estate planning in their career and collaborates with other professionals to provide their clients with comprehensive estate planning services.

This article will define the AEP designation, situations when you should hire them, and the qualifications of people with the AEP designation. 

What Is an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) Designation?

The Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) designation is a graduate-level specialization in estate planning. The NAEPC awards this designation to an estate planning professional after thoroughly reviewing the prospective AEP’s education, experience, credentials, professional reputation, and character. An AEP is significantly engaged in estate planning in their current profession, and most importantly, they commit to the team concept of estate planning.

The NAEPC comprises a national-level network of councils that include qualified estate planning professionals. Each council provides an opportunity to its members to network and collaborate with other estate planning professionals to pursue estate planning as a team, where necessary, and provide the best service to their clients. As per the NAEPC website, “NAEPC boasts over 270 member estate planning councils and provides services to their estimated 30,000 individual members”.

An AEP will generally hold an underlying license or designation as well. For example, attorney (JD), Certified Public Account (CPA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and more. Therefore, this special accreditation allows AEP designation holders to distinguish themselves from competitors who do not specialize in estate planning services or collaborate with other professionals for holistic estate planning.

Should You Hire a Professional with an AEP Designation?

An AEP designation identifies a professional who has dedicated a significant amount of time in their career toward estate planning and related activities. This professional is unique in terms of the services they can offer clients as they hold the AEP designation and other licenses or credentials that are valuable to estate planning. 

An AEP can do all the same things as a standard estate planner, but by connecting with other experts in their network and leveraging their own experience, they can provide a higher level of service. Their services include:

  • Last Wills and Testaments
  • Trusts
  • Living Wills
  • Healthcare Directives
  • Inheritance Laws
  • Taxes
  • Real Estate Management
  • Legal Assistance

AEPs can tackle large and complex estate planning cases. An AEP with a specific background and former occupation can be sought out if an estate plan requires knowledge specific to their experience. This allows for a more focused, detail-driven service that works well with your estate’s challenges. 

The lengthy requirements to acquire the designation ensure that an AEP brings years of estate planning knowledge and experience to clients. AEPs are held accountable and expected to uphold the requirements of their designation as outlined by the NAEPC. You can confirm the current status of someone’s AEP designation by using the search feature on the site or contacting the NAEPC directly. More information is available here.

What Does It Take to Earn and Maintain the AEP Designation?

The NAEPC requires that all applicants meet the following criteria to earn the AEP designation.

1. Credential requirement: Applicants must have a background in law, financial advice, retirement, or estate planning and are expected to have a set of underlying credentials in their professional background. 

NAEPC accepts the following credentials: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Attorney (JD), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA), Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP), Certified Specialist in Planned Giving (CSPG), and Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA).

In addition, NAEPC accepts applicants who hold a Masters of Science in Financial Services (MSFS) from The American College.

2. Professionally experience requirement: A minimum of 5 years of experience is required. The prospective AEP must have spent at least one-third of that time in the field of estate planning regardless of professional designation. The NAEPC expects applicants to be well educated and experienced in the field of estate planning with at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field.

3. Education requirement: Applicable to anyone with less than 15 years of experience in estate planning, the NAEPC requires applicants to complete two graduate courses of estate planning certified by The American College of Financial Services or another accredited graduate program. Alternatively, NAEPC also accepts applicants who have completed specific courses or degrees through other colleges, universities, or educational institutions. Additional details are available here

4. Membership requirement: Applicants are expected to have an active membership with their local/regional estate planning council. If an NAEPC-affiliated local council is not available, the applicant is required to maintain an At-Large individual membership directly in the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. 

5. Professional reputation and character requirement: The NAEPC requires all applicants to provide at least three professional references and have a professional license/credential in good standing with the respective professional organization.

Maintaining the designation requires continuous education of at least 30 hours every 24 months. An AEP must spend fifteen of those hours exclusively on estate planning. This also applies to new applicants and the past 24 months of their professional life. They must also abide by a required Code of Ethics. Any breaches may result in the removal of the designation or issuance of a public complaint. An AEP is expected to always maintain a consistent dedication to the team concept of estate planning.

How To Find The Best Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) to Work with You

You’ll find a growing number of Accredited Estate Planners featured on Wealthtender in the map below. You can also search the directory of AEPs maintained by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.


Featured Accredited Estate Planners on Wealthtender

Click a preview card below to view financial professionals on Wealthtender who have earned their Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) designation.


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About the Author

Ash & Pri

Ash & Pri are the founders of AshandPri.com, where they empower readers to make smart money decisions across all aspects of life. 

After achieving their FIRE goals in their 30s, they launched their blogging business in late 2021 and scaled it up quickly to generate a consistent income within a few months. 

You can find their expert financial advice & tips featured on sites like Forbes, GoBankingRates, Apartment Therapy, MSN, and more.

Disclaimer: In order to make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured on our platform. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor promotion of our clients over other professionals and firms not featured on Wealthtender. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.

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