Accredited Beneficiary Stewardship Program
The Accredited Beneficiary Stewardship Program (ABS) TM is the first and only self-paced, online learning program and professional designation for beneficiaries. Through a highly tailored education experience, beneficiaries of trust assets may either audit or complete the program’s coursework. The comprehensive and rigorous fiduciary stewardship content builds a foundation of knowledge and enhances student’s understanding of the building blocks of wealth in the areas of estate planning, trusts, administration, investing, tax, fiduciary relationships and responsibilities, and more. Featuring engaging multi-media content – film, interviews, and articles -anonymized real-life cases, and applied learning techniques, students find the education experience to be interesting and engaging.
- Access your courses anytime, anywhere, with a computer, tablet or smartphone
- Videos, quizzes and interactive content designed for a proven learning experience
- Unlimited access. Take your courses at your time and pace
Structure and Requirements
The Accredited Beneficiary Stewardship Designation is comprised of the following elements:
- Developed by industry experts
- Delivers high quality, engaging, and applied course content
- eLearning format, taken at your own pace, and applicable to all screens
- Essential topics in one learning program with learning checks
- All course requirements must be completed prior to sitting for the exam
- The exam is taken online and has 100 randomized questions
- A pre-test may be given to prepare for the exam
- 80% is required to pass the final exam that is administered online
3. Designation Completion
4. Continuing Education
- To maintain your designation, a renewal fee, membership dues, and continuing education is required each year. See fee structure in the course catalog
- Select from a broad range of subjects connected to the ABS designation to maintain your designation as well as to demonstrate your continued applied skills, knowledge, and understanding.
Audit versus Designation
There are two options to access the Accredited Beneficiary Stewardship Program (ABS).
Designation: enroll to go through the coursework, prepare for the final exam to obtain the official professional designation. The full coursework includes learning checks, exam preparation, access to the full suite of resources, updates to the learning curriculum and more. Coursework must be completed within one year and allows you to apply to sit for the exam within six months of completion of the coursework.
Audit: enroll to audit the coursework and be exposed the full comprehensive learning program for a limited period for a reduced price, however, not to complete the designation. Coursework does not include learning checks or exam preparation, nor does it allow you to apply to sit for the exam. Contact us for more information.
Outline of Lessons
The Stewardship course introduces the concept of stewardship and the role that stewarding principles play in beneficiary’s lives. Students explore values in terms of how they relate to stewardship and being a beneficiary. The mission of the Accredited Beneficiary Stewardship (ABS) Program is explained.
Beneficiary Fundamentals - Course 1
Beneficiary Fundamentals Course 1 introduces the four “M’s” that inspire beneficiary stewardship. The course reviews important stewardship concepts when it comes to beneficial ownership around
- mentoring, and
Beneficiary Fundamentals - Course 2
Beneficiary Fundamentals Course 2 focuses on beneficiary and trustee relationships, including how the relationship evolves over time from the beneficiary’s childhood to adulthood. The types and nature of the fiduciary relationship are also explored. At the end of the course, learning checks challenge the student on their knowledge gained of the trustee/beneficiary relationship.
Beneficiary Fundamentals - Course 3
Beneficiary Fundamentals Course 3 focuses on the core responsibilities of a beneficiary, exploring how this role is unique, the special characteristics, and the best practices of a successful beneficiary. The course then expands on the important duties of the beneficiary including education and empowerment, monitoring and management, and planning.
Beneficiary Fundamentals - Course 4
Beneficiary Fundamentals Course 4 shares a fictionalized, anonymized case study that illustrates the relationship between trustees and their beneficiaries. The case provides insights about the beneficiary and trustee relationship and focuses on education and empowerment.
Trustee Basics - Course 1
Trustee Basics Course 1 introduces the main parties to the trust – the grantor, the beneficiary, and the trustee. Additional parties to the trust are introduced, such as advisors with specific oversight functions that may be required over several generations and common types of trustees and beneficiaries. The course concludes with applied learning and a helpful resource and concise summary of the trust concept, key terms, responsibilities, and duties of a trustee and beneficiary.
Trustee Basics - Course 2
Trustee Basics Course 2 focuses on the core responsibilities and primary duties of the trustee. Four primary oversight areas of the trustee are explored including:
- administration and monitoring of the trust,
- investment oversight,
- distribution authority,
- education and empowerment of the beneficiary, and
- planning with respect to the beneficiary’s trust.
Trustee Basics - Course 3
Trustee Basics Course 3 focuses on the various ‘forms’ that the trustee can take, specifically those categorized as individual trustees and as institutional trustees, and their advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, institutional fiduciaries, commercial trust companies, and private trust companies (PTC) and setting up a PTC are explored. The course also discusses the purpose and role of co-trustees.
Trustee Basics - Course 4
Trustee Basics Course 4 provides further guidance on various approaches to identifying individual and corporate trustees. Steps are discussed regarding the process of sourcing trustee candidates, including writing a job description, vetting, interviewing, and prioritizing the best candidates. This course also shares insights regarding trustee compensation and effective ways to transition trustee duties to a successor.
- What key criteria is important to identify when you need to fill particular trustee positions?
- How do you craft the position description and set the expectation for the type of trustee you hope to attract?
- Where do you find good trustee candidates?
- How do you set them up for success once selected?
Introduction to Estate Planning - Course 1
Course 1 of the Introduction to Estate Planning course reviews the five estate planning phases and the five basic goals of the iterative estate planning process. Triggering events that impact estate planning, either anticipated or unanticipated, are discussed. Further, outside influences such as tax law changes and economic downturns, family culture influences, the concept of “ruling from the grave,” and modern perspectives with a timely example of an inheritor are explored.
Introduction to Estate Planning - Course 2
Introduction to Estate Planning Course 2 introduces estate planning as both an efficient and effective means of passing along property. The course explores how, through estate planning, grantor’s may express their intention around what they leave to beneficiaries. This course also explains the critical documents to estate plans including power of attorney, living wills, healthcare power of attorney, and advanced directives.
Introduction to Estate Planning - Course 3
Introduction to Estate Planning Course 3 focuses on wills, including their key components to making them valid, the process of establishing a will, the dangers of not having a will, and what may happen if someone passes without a will. This course discusses all aspects of the process of establishing an estate plan and the important decisions that must be made in doing so. Finally, the course reviews the methods in which an estate may allocate assets, as a means to understand the intentions of the individual passing on property and potential issues of fairness and equity over generations.
Trust Fundamentals - Course 1
In Course 1 of Trust Fundamentals, both the purpose of trusts and the history of trusts, dating back to the Roman Empire and the Crusades, are reviewed. The course proceeds with the nuts and bolts of the primary trust categories, trust income distribution categories, and complex trust language. Students learn about the main parties to a trust as well as the additional parties to a trust, either individuals or corporate. The role of a trustee in a dynastic family trust is explored through a fictional case of a family grappling with complex estate planning issues.
Trust Fundamentals - Course 2
Trust Fundamentals Course 2 describes the forms that trusts can take and the different types of trusts in each category that have different rules, terms, tax consequences, purposes, powers, and limitations. By the end of this course, students will know how a trust can substitute for and can be used with a will, how a trust interacts with a power of attorney, and the laws that govern the lifecycles of trusts.
Trust Fundamentals - Course 3
Trust Fundamentals Course 3 explores the most widely used type of trust, irrevocable trust structures and it is variations in greater detail. How these trusts can be used to achieve philanthropic, asset protection, wealth transfer, and legacy goals is discussed. Students will learn about “The Principle of Future Interests” as it relates to the wishes of grantors. Finally, the course reviews some of the legal background for trusts and critical case law that have influenced trust law.
Personal Finance Fundamentals - Course 1
Personal Finance Fundamentals Course 1 sheds light on the purpose of financial plans – the why, what, and how – as well as how to set goals considering a beneficiary’s needs, wants, and wishes. The five basic building blocks of financial planning are explored in detail. These financial planning building blocks include saving, spending, giving, income, and budgeting. Risk management and long-term factors are reviewed. Finally, the course concludes with an applied learning exercise which gives students the opportunity to create their own basic budgets.
Personal Finance Fundamentals - Course 2
Personal Finance Fundamentals Course 2 introduces various financial statements including income statements, balance sheets, and statement of cash flows. Students learn the fundaments of how to read and analyze these statements. Financial statement subtotal measures such as gross margin, operating income, and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) are reviewed. Finally, measures and ratios that reveal financial performance are detailed including working capital, current ratio, quick ratio, earning per share, debt-equity ratio, and return on equity.
Personal Finance Fundamentals - Course 3
Course 3 of the Personal Finance Basics course introduces two cases to expand student’s understanding of personal financial planning, personal financial statements, and how these statements are used in business. This course delves into the process of setting short-term and long-term goals, evaluating one’s options for achieving them, and ultimately putting a plan in place to achieve them. Students also learn how financial statements reveal the overall performance of a business and how the details of these statements help diagnose areas of strength and areas that require attention.
Trust Admin & Working With Advisors - Course 1
Course 1 of Trust Administration and Working with Advisors builds the foundational understanding of how a trust is administered. This course explores the essential questions to ask to understand how a trust is administered, as well as the key duties of the trustee relative to trust administration. Students learn the four steps of trust administration which include:
- Assuming control,
- Administering the trust,
- Understanding the trust parties, and
- Reviewing the trust.
Trust Admin & Working With Advisors - Course 2
Course 2 of the Trust Administration and Working with Advisors course builds the foundational understanding of how a trust is administered and now brings into consideration working within the advisor ecosystem. Essential topics are discussed including the types of advisors that may be in your network, how to hire, compensate, onboard, and fire advisors. Managing performance, communication, and transitions are covered. This lesson explores how to navigate changes in desired services and considerations for negotiating contracts and fees. Finally, course 2 concludes with an applied learning case about mobilizing an advisor team in a time of crisis.
Foundations of Tax - Course 1
In this course, the complex and ever-changing world of taxes is introduced. Students learn about the history and evolution of taxes in the United States. An overview is provided of the conceptual underpinnings of the U.S. tax code, the most common taxes and tax forms, and how recent tax law changes have affected some taxpayers. Learning from this course is put into action with a tax mini-case and wraps up with an overview of tax planning tips and key dates to remember.
Foundations of Tax - Course 2
This course focuses on the taxes that specifically impact estates, trusts, and wealth transfers. The origins of these taxes are explored as well as their intentions. Taxes for beneficial owners are more complex than for most Americans. With an understanding of these taxes and one’s beneficial asset holdings, beneficiaries can work more productively with their trust advisory team. To this end, students will begin to learn about the tax landscape they face and how to take a more strategic approach through tax planning.
Foundations of Tax - Course 3
In this course, the different types of entities that accomplish both tax-related and non-tax related goals are discussed. Students explore how flow through entities, such as LLCs, LPs, and S-Corps, and non-flow through entities, such as C-Corps, achieve goals for business owners. In addition, an overview is provided of private foundations and public charities, including their pro's and con's, and the key differences between the two to help guide philanthropic goals.
Fundamentals of Trust Investments - Course 1
Course 1 of Fundamentals of Trust Investments builds the foundational understanding of how a trust is invested. The course focuses on common practices to investing a trust, the more common asset classes that a trust may typically hold and the investment considerations for those common asset classes. This course explores the concept of compounding, portfolio construction, time horizons, and risk and return. It concludes with an overview of annual asset class performance and the factors that can influence performance.
Fundamentals of Trust Investments - Course 2
Course 2 of Fundamentals of Trust Investments covers investment goals and strategy, the investment process, and different approaches to investing such as Modern Portfolio Theory and Goals Based Investing. This course explores investment governance that may be associated with a trust, including having an investment philosophy, investment policy statement, investment charter and/or an investment committee. Finally, this course ends with how to interpret a sample investment statement.
Fundamentals of Trust Investments - Course 3
Course 3 of Fundamentals of Trust Investments progresses through a real-life case study and provides insights to how trust investing may have different guidelines and parameters than a simple brokerage or investment account. The lesson applies the insights learned from investment basics in Course 1 and the process, approach, and governance to investing covered in Course 2. The final Course provides a useful investment case study that also ties in the broader estate planning, financial planning, and wealth transfer concepts covered in earlier lessons.