Who IS this guy?
The opportunity to blog for Advisors4advisors is very exciting to me. Before I launch into commentary on estate planning I thought it might be appropriate to give you a bit of my background.
I plan to make observations that will provide useful, practical suggestions. The positions I’ll advance on many of the topics we’ll “discuss” will represent contrarian or innovative views, and thus will likely come across as “controversial” in some circles. This is to be expected, as it is my view that the estate planning industry has for the most part failed, and continues to fail, in its efforts to effectively serve the public.
My financial services background includes practice experience in insurance sales with Northwestern Mutual Life, the best in the industry—just ask ’em!-- and with Mass Mutual, where I added mutual fund sales to my experience. I co-founded a fee-plus-commission financial services practice in 1986 at the height of the “big book” era of financial planning. My focus was on insurance and estate planning recommendations.
I obtained all the “academic” experience along the way, including the CLU, ChFC, CFP®, and the Registry Financial Planner designation. Although I had graduated from law school, I did not practice law until 1988 when I opened my practice (limited to estate planning) at the urging of our financial planning clients. My law degree thus allowed me a unique view of the interaction between the financial planning and legal industry views of “estate planning” which has influenced my activities ever since.
For instance, as a planner I was quite concerned about how to determine if an estate planning lawyer was “a good one” for my clients. What if the attorney did a bad job? How would I look in the eyes of my client? That concern was quickly overshadowed by my experience that lawyers simply never got things done. Not just done slowly, mind you, but at all!
I had become familiar with the living trust concept through my affiliation with the IAFP. It seemed, however, that when I searched for attorneys to team with that they fell into two categories—they couldn’t do living trusts, or they wouldn’t do living trust planning! Over time, my clients and partners pressured me to open a law practice to serve our planning clients. So, it was “welcome to the world of conflict of interest!”
Trying to run a dual practice was certainly eye-opening! After securing separate office space, I found many advisors were excited to refer to me (thinking I’d left the planning firm, which I hadn’t yet!). I soon did leave my financial planning firm based on the clear indication that other financial advisors were having the same difficulties teaming up with attorneys that I’d been having.
I was fortunate enough to hear Bob Esperti speak at an IAFP annual meeting, and soon the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys. Esperti and his partner Renno Peterson had written the best-selling book Loving Trust, and formed an association based on educating attorneys to pursue fully funded living trust planning. As a founding member, I was very much in the forefront of the living trust movement. I placed ads in newspapers, but I also worked with life underwriters, stock brokers, and CFPs. I found that estate planning truly can be a “team sport” if approached correctly. We’ll talk a lot about that!
Eventually, I became the Education Director for the Network. Part of that role involved training more than 1500 attorneys over the last 15 years. In my private practice, I have delivered workshops to over 15,000 attendees. The observations I make in this blog will obviously reflect the experiences I’ve had with clients, financial advisors and attorneys.
The name of my blog is the same as the name of my workshop, The Truth About Estate Planning. We’ll begin next time with what’s become the central theme of my career—most estate plans just don’t work. Time after time, I’ve found that counselling approaches, document presentations, attorney/advisor interactions and a whole host of other situations “don’t work” because they simply don’t meet expectations.
Let’s start there. What you can expect as a reader of this blog is very open, candid dialog about estate planning. I’ll share my views and encourage you to share yours. I’ll challenge assumptions about what we do and how we do it. My goal is to leave the estate and wealth planning world better for the discussion. So we begin!