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Portfolio > Alternative Investments > Real Estate

Morgan Stanley Expanding Estate Services

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Morgan Stanley is expanding its recently introduced Estate and Inheritor Services team, according to Lisa Golia, head of Field Strategic Services at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. The program lets advisors offer “concierge support” to clients and family members for account processing, including a quick wealth transfer when a client dies.

“When a client passes away, there’s really a number of complex steps that need to be taken to ensure that the assets can be transferred properly to the beneficiaries on the estate,” Golia told ThinkAdvisor in a recent phone interview.

That includes “a lot of complex paperwork and a lot of the rules vary state by state,” she noted, adding that there’s a need to “navigate through all of those state-specific rules and the documentation” involved.

Prior to their access to the new Estate and Inheritor Services team, Morgan Stanley advisors and other service professionals “would manage this process themselves” on behalf of their clients  as do branch offices without access to the new team, Golia said.

Because “this is not something typically that happens if you’re an advisor often, luckily,” the process becomes “even more complicated because it’s not something [done by them] day in and day out,” she explained.

The new initiative launched in late 2019, and Morgan Stanley now has 25 professionals supporting select U.S. branches working on these services.  The new service will be rolled out to more branches in 2021.

Expansion Plans

“We’ll continue to hire and train an additional 25 [or so] people as we expand to roughly 80% of the branches by the end of 2021,” Golia said. “We will reassess late next year how many additional staff we will need in 2022, in order to complete the rollout.”

None of the team members are advisors, since Morgan Stanley aims for them to be estate experts focused solely on this effort, she explained.

“We’re in the process of rolling this out, … so the technology” being used is “consistently evolving,” Golia explained. “The biggest aspect of it is … an ‘end-to-end’ workflow engine that is all automated and helps guide the specialist through the process.”

So, why the slow rollout? “It’s two reasons really,” Golia said. “One is there’s an extensive amount of training to do this. It’s very important to us that we get this right. There is no rush. I’d rather perfect it and get it right than just rush something that is so complicated. Again, the specialists have to learn different variables of … paperwork and different state laws.”

Reason number two is the wirehouse is “continuing to build and refine the technology,” she explained. “I’m sure we could go faster. But it’s not the way I want this to be handled. It’s a complex process during a … very sensitive time” for clients.

Morgan Stanley wants to “make sure all of our reps are experts in this before they’re handholding our clients through the process,” Golia said. So far, the company has been getting “very positive feedback” from clients about the new team.

The wirehouse’s estate-focused efforts are meant to go hand in hand with the digital investments it’s been making in recent years, including the ability to move money through a smartphone and e-signatures, she explained.

Those capabilities are “leveraged as well during the estate process,” Golia noted. The end result is a more “seamless” experience for clients: “It all kind of comes together.”

— Check out Morgan Stanley’s Gorman on COVID-19 Crisis: ‘You Can’t Model This’ on ThinkAdvisor.


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