Widening the Circle

Most estate planning leads to
the proactive appointment of durable powers of attorney. These trusted
individuals are legally appointed to execute transactions and make decisions on your behalf – if you are physically
or mentally unable to do so. Properly coordinated, these tools provide peace of
mind in a time of difficult transitions. The communication between client,
family, attorney, investment advisor, and power of attorney is sometimes
referred to as a “circle of trust” that surrounds the client (in good times and
bad).

Over the years, I’ve participated in
many circles of trust – and facilitated
the subsequent transition period. In the past, most people kept their legal
documents in a drawer only to be retrieved in times of need. In recent years,
however, we’ve observed an earlier and broader widening of this
circle. Most interestingly, this circle has included not only appointed legal
representatives – but a broader assembly of family members and trusted
individuals. More and more clients are including loved
ones in meetings, updates, and clients events.
I’ve interacted with an increasing number of spouses, siblings, beneficiaries,
and children, building good relationships and preparing
for future transitions. The benefits of such proactive inclusion include
the following:

  • By having the
    trusted individuals observe the client and advisor relationship, they can
    begin developing a relationship with the advisor as well. These
    individuals will gain valuable
    insight into investment methodology, client mindset, and risk/reward interplay.

  • Many spouses “divide and conquer” when it
    comes to specializing in certain areas of the financial household.
    This approach is effective, but can sometimes create lopsided expertise in
    a household. Proactively broadening spousal/partner participation in client
    meetings facilitates future continuity and engagement.

  • Introducing young
    generations to the circle of trust provides
    the opportunity to gain valuable exposure to investment management and
    wealth planning practices.

  • Beneficiaries of
    lifetime giving establish context for the source of their gifts.

  • Participation in
    meetings also prepares family members to notice irregularities in the
    future – either in the capacity of loved ones, or the possible
    identification of predatory advisory practices from other advisors. Such
    preparation can be greatly protective and reassuring.

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Of course, many clients feel that their finances are private
– and prefer not to include a wider circle. In such a case, careful
planning and drafting of legal documents is especially important, to
ensure that wishes are respected and honored once the situation calls for it. A
good advisor will work with clients within the clients’ comfort zone: wide
circle, narrow circle, or no circle at all. Mindfulness of these varying family
and legacy objectives serves to protect the best interests of clients and their
circles of trust.

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