Individuals and families with large estates have enough to worry about - they shouldn't have to wonder whether the advisors they depend upon have their best interests at heart, says financial advisor Matthew T. Shafer.
"Many don't realize that wealthy people are targets for criminals and opportunistic people; that's why an estate should have a good team of professionals who work well with each other," says Shafer, author of The Future of Your Wealth, (http://mattshafer.us/).
"Wealthy families - and many middle-class families - have multiple advisors who specialize in different disciplines, including attorneys, tax specialists, insurance agents and the like. A family could find the best specialist in each field, but if these experts do not work in harmony, the results can be dreadful."
These key players are like musicians in a band or orchestra. If they are off doing their own thing with no consideration for the overall production, it will sound terrible, says Shafer, who offers tips for overcoming potential problems within a group of advisors.
Keep egos in check. The best lawyers, tax advisors and financial advisors - top performers who've spent years honing their skills in highly competitive environments - tend to be strong-minded personalities. When members of the team are required to review the work of another within the team, egos can get in the way, even when all parties can agree that a second pair of eyes can improve work. Advisors should establish a cooperative, collaborative dynamic and avoid pointing fingers of blame; rather, make the priority to do whatever's best for the client.
Educate yourself about other disciplines. "Financial advisors can do a better job for their clients if they've taken the time to learn about these other fields so they're comfortable with cross-discipline conversations," Shafer says. Better understanding another team member's profession requires a longsighted view, and there isn't an immediate payoff. But, as with any educational pursuit, the value will be evident down the road. That value includes clients with increased peace of mind in knowing that their team is coordinated.
Be tactful in troubleshooting tough situations. If a team member senses something is amiss in the work of another, first approach another advisor within the team and tactfully ask for help connecting the dots. Give the other advisor every opportunity to identify a problem and resolve a possible mistake. The only exception to this is when you think a crime is being committed. In that case, advisors are legally obligated to tell their client. An accusatory approach tends to damage relationships, or even bring them to an end. The goal is to get the best results for the client, not to criticize the other professionals on the team.
Matthew T. Shafer, author of The Future of Your Wealth, (http://mattshafer.us/), has been named one of the top 1,000 Financial Advisors in the U.S. by Barron's Magazine (2009) and has received several national recognitions, including "Premier Advisor" by the National Association of Board Certified Advisory Practices (2012).
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