Estate Planning Certification: Certificate Program Summary

Although certification in the field is optional, estate planning certificate programs provide supplemental knowledge to those with undergraduate or graduate degrees in related fields. Programs typically only encompass legal courses related to this portion of the law.

Essential Information

Graduate estate planning certificate programs can typically be completed in one year and are offered at law schools. These programs prepare students for roles in estate planning, taxation and trusts. Some programs may offer separate tracks depending upon the students' potential careers, including ones for attorneys and accountants. Students may be required to complete a specific number of hours doing pre-approved pro bono work in estate planning or tax law.

  • Prerequisites: Graduate degree in law or related field, Exam for bachelor's degree graduates
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Some Program Specializations: Attorney, accountant
  • Potential Graduation Requirements: Pro bono work

Certificate in Estate Planning

Most schools offering certificate programs in estate planning state that students must have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or equivalent degree from an accredited law school. If they did not study law, students may need to successfully complete the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam or possess an undergraduate degree in accounting from an accredited school and have performed professional tax work for at least one year. Applicants may also need a minimum grade point average based upon graduate law school or undergraduate accounting programs. Courses offered may include:

  • Estate and gift tax
  • Partnership taxation
  • Income taxation of trusts and estates
  • Elder law

Popular Career Options

Graduates of the estate planning certificate program can qualify for numerous law-based or accounting careers. In addition to becoming attorneys who can make estate planning their specialty, graduates can seek employment in areas such as paralegal or legal secretary work, financial planning, and insurance sales.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Faster than average employment growth was predicted for paralegals and legal assistants and an average growth of 10 percent was expected for insurance sales agents from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). May 2014 data from the BLS showed that paralegals and legal assistants earned an average salary of $48,350. The average annual income of insurance sales agents was $47,860 in the same year.

Continuing Education and Certificate Information

The National Institute of Certified Estate Planners (NICEP) offers a Certified Estate Planner (CEP) distinction that applicants can earn by completing educational courses and passing an exam (www.nicep.org). CEPs must pay an annual fee, complete continuing education courses every two years and adhere to the NICEP's code of ethics to maintain certification. After obtaining the CEP designation, applicants can strive for a Master Certified Estate Planner (MCEP) certification by completing a NICEP-sponsored course.

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