According to a survey conducted by the Hartford Financial Services Group, 37 percent of affluent Americans (who have an annual household income of $150,000 or more) have not taken any steps to plan their estates. This startling statistic sheds light on a largely untapped resource of advisors. Though often considered an add-on to the sale, estate planning actually offers yet another layer to the client-advisor relationship.
To Pat McCormick, senior vice president of sales and distribution at Symetra Financial, estate planning should be included in every advisor’s portfolio of skills. “The integration of estate planning services is essential for the growth of your practice,” McCormick says, adding that there are many ways to add estate planning services into an already thriving practice. Following are five such tips:
- Partner with the law. Seek out a local attorney who specializes in estate planning. “Remember, the primary goal is not to get a referral from the attorney, but to have a network in place allowing you to exceed the expectation of your clients. This interdisciplinary relationship will set you apart,” McCormick says.
- Check the paperwork. Encourage potential clients to bring current legal documents to the initial meeting. McCormick finds this tip to be especially beneficial, saying, “Being able to review this paperwork allows you to see the whole picture and thus offer a more well-rounded solution strategy.”
- Offer a freebie. After developing a trustworthy relationship with an estate planning attorney, consider asking that a free consultation on estate planning strategies be offered as a prerequisite for your referral.
- Make it a “one-stop shop”. Make your estate-planning attorney available to your clients in your office. This can be done through email, telephone or video conferencing. By offering two services in the location of one, you increase the convenience and need for your practice.
- Get informed. Make it a point to learn everything you can about what to look for in trusts and any legal paperwork. McCormick adds, “You can also ask the attorney to review the documents with you, allowing you to not only learn what is further needed to enhance your client’s financial situation, but also giving you the opportunity to immediately identify solutions to the problems you have uncovered.”