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Integrated Wealth Management

What Estate Attorneys Should Know About Investment Advisors

A business is only as strong as its partnerships. If you’re an estate attorney, one of the best ways to expand and strengthen your business is through a good solid partnership with an investment advisor. Yet for so many attorneys, finding one worth investing their time in is a challenging pursuit. Here are our tips.

Challenges that estate attorneys tend to face

First, let’s look at the challenges that attorneys are coming up against in the course of running their practices.

For many estate attorneys, business is transaction-oriented in nature. Clients come to them for creation of a will or trust, but in their eyes it is a one time thing. It’s the typical “set it and forget it” type of scenario where the attorney won’t hear back from the client for years, despite life changes happening.

Sound familiar?

From the client’s perspective, some can fear contacting the attorney because they don’t want to pay high hourly fees (as many attorneys do charge their clients) for routine maintenance that may not be compulsory in nature.

The end result is that relationships for an estate attorney can remain dormant for years. Without a good reason to get back in front of clients (one that won’t carry the appearance of creating expensive hourly charges), past relationships are difficult to activate and the attorney is constantly on a treadmill to find new people to help.

Why an investment advisor partnership can help an attorney

The best thing an investment advisor partnership can do to an attorney is create ways to get their past clients involved with financial planning on an ongoing basis. This allows the attorney to show value without charging the client a fortune, or in some cases, anything at all. This solves the problem of deactivated relationships.

For example, an investment advisor may work with the attorney to set up a webinar or event on an annual basis in January about the financial planning items that people should look at once a year.

Voila!

The advisor can integrate financial planning with estate planning by asking questions such as:

·         Have you changed custodian or account numbers for any of your investment or bank accounts?

·         When was the last time you checked your beneficiaries on all these accounts?

There are numerous ways that attorneys and advisors can partner together. But first you have to find th right one. Here are some things to look for.

A clearly defined process

One of the biggest problems that attorneys face is continuity of business. You create a will or some trust documents for a client, and then you don’t hear from them for years. Partnering with an investment advisor with a clearly defined process with consistent check points built in can be very advantageous.

Ask the investment advisor:

·         How frequently they meet with clients.

·         Do they meet virtually, or are clients required to meet face to face? Requiring too much in person time can sometimes deter people

·         If they have written down these procedures

·         How many team members are involved with this process

The more clarity an investment advisor has about servicing clients, the higher transparency of communication. This means more opportunity to get clients involved with your business.

A true fiduciary status

Many advisors will claim to work in the best interests of the client, but the proof in the pudding lies within how they are compensated. Even if an advisor is a Registered Investment Advisor, if they are also registered representatives under FINRA they have the option of which governance system to follow. This means that they may choose to be compensated by commissions instead of fees. In such cases there is no obligation for them to act in the best interest of the client before their own.

Look for a fee-only (as opposed to fee-based or commission-only) investment advisor. This arrangement will minimize possible conflicts of interest.

Empathetic questioning techniques

People come to investment advisors with their guards up because (as mentioned above) there are several methods of compensation that do not align well with client interests. An investment advisor should understand this and be prepared to understand their challenges in learning to trust. Any advisor with an upfront sales pitch is not a good candidate to partner with.

Also, the advisor should ask you questions that allow him or her to get to know your practice without making you feel as if there is a stiff sales agenda or being too intrusive.

Examples of consultative questions:

·         What is the one thing you wish your practice could accomplish for clients that you haven’t been able to do so far?

·         What is the biggest time consuming thing related to your clients’ money that you wind up doing, that you wish you could bypass?

An advisor who seeks to understand the realities of your practice increases the chances of being a successful partner to your practice.

Education about points of engagement

Another thing that a good advisor partner can do is to teach an estate attorney the “trigger points” when it makes sense to put financial planning on the agenda. Events such as market downturns, loss of a job, or certain levels of wealth accumulation warrant a look at your finances.

An advisor should offer you ways to discuss these events your clients, and educate you as the attorney about what to say to motivate the client to take action when they happen.

Summary on how estate attorneys can engage with investment advisors

Finding a good investment advisor partner doesn’t come easily. In fact, good investment advisor partners can be quite rare. Often it will require you to go beyond the norm and reach past your immediate circles, but quality partners can be found that embody the characteristics described in this article. For more advice about how to do this please feel free to contact us.