Before you can choose your advisors, delegate responsibilities to team members or begin to benefit from the Leverage of advisors, you need to understand the types of advisors you need. In this chapter, we provide a list that covers the team members that 90% of situations require. Some advisors, like mortgage brokers, are not discussed because they typically play a transactional role at different points in the client’s lifetime. The other advisors may review mortgages, but the mortgage broker typically is looking for the lowest price and isn’t changing loan offers based on the other pieces of the comprehensive financial plan. In addition, unique circumstances may call for some teams to require additional advisors with very unique skills.
Below is the list of the most common advisors:
· Asset Protection Attorneys
· Estate Planning Attorneys
· Tax Attorneys
· Insurance Professionals
· Investment Advisors
· Financial Planners
The term accountant will be used to generically describe an accountant, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Enrolled Agent (EA).
What They Do: Accountants (and CPAs and EAs) are trained and licensed to prepare tax returns for submission to the Internal Revenue Service. Each state has its own licensing and accreditation procedures for accountants and CPAs. California is no exception. The CPA has a multi-part exam that is required to earn the CPA accreditation. Enrolled Agents complete a federal licensing process. In all situations, these advisors primarily prepare tax returns. In the most desirable client-advisor relationship, the accountants also provide clients with advice on tax matters.
Limitations of an Accountant:
1. The U.S. tax law is potentially the most complex set of rules created by human-kind, and significant changes are made to these rules every year. Therefore, it is impossible for any accountant to be well versed in all areas of tax policy. More likely, the accountant may only know one or two areas (of 20 or more potential areas) intimately. Tax planning is like medicine—each area has become so complex that one can’t possibly expect to become an expert in many disciplines. In the medical arena, most patients and physicians realize that one Doctor can’t do everything. They both readily accept being referred to, or referring patients to, other physicians. A gastroenterologist would no sooner make diagnoses for skin conditions than a dermatologist would try and diagnose and treat an intestinal issue. Unfortunately, this is what happens all the time in the tax arena.
2. Some accountants are comfortable acknowledging what they know and don’t know. Some accountants feel responsible for answering all tax questions and resist referring clients to other accountants for specific needs for fear of losing the client altogether. This is more of a limitation of an individual than it is a limitation of the profession as a whole, but it should be recognized.
3. Conflicts of interest may arise. Many accountants are beginning to look for additional revenue opportunities by getting licensed in life insurance and securities. They will then recommend their clients particular investment and insurance products. This can create significant conflicts of interest with clients who are looking for tax advice, but who are getting financial suggestions. Clients should be concerned how accountants who deal with very complex tax issues find time to become experts in insurance and investments. In revisiting our Doctor analogy—how could a practicing dermatologist find the time to learn oncology on the side and offer high-quality consultation to the dermatology clients who develop cancer? Savvy patients would prefer a full-time oncologist in that situation. Despite the conflict and impracticality, many CPAs with years of accounting experience are now trying to increase revenue by advising clients on investments and insurance, despite having little or no practical experience in these areas.
Asset Protection Attorneys
The term asset protection attorney describes an attorney who has a strong working knowledge of and experience in the area of creditor protection. There is no state-specific accreditation for asset protection. All attorneys must be admitted to the Bar Association in the state(s) in which they wish to practice. To see if an attorney is licensed and in good standing in California, you can go to www.calbar.org.
What They Do: Asset protection attorneys specialize in the field of asset protection. They help clients arrange their personal and business affairs in a manner that protects their wealth from potential future lawsuits and other creditor risks. Because many of the tools used in asset protection are the same tools used in estate planning and business planning, it is common for asset protection attorneys to also have a strong working knowledge in those areas as well.
Limitations of Asset Protection Attorneys:
1. Because asset protection is a relatively new field of law and most attorneys are overwhelmed in their primary fields of interest (litigation, business law, estate planning, etc.), few attorneys have found the time or had the interest to study this important field of law. As a result, there are very few attorneys who are experts in this area. Though one of the co-authors (Mr. Mandell) specializes in this area, he is one of fewer than 50 attorneys in the country whose focus is exclusively in this area.
2. Asset protection attorneys are NOT estate planning or tax attorneys—or any other type of attorney, for that matter. Do not expect that you will get estate planning or tax advice from these attorneys unless they also have specific training in these areas. However, your asset protection attorney should be willing to interact with attorneys from the other fields who will be necessary to help you complete your planning.
Estate Planning Attorneys
The term estate planning attorney describes an attorney who has a strong working knowledge of and experience in the area of trusts, probate, and estate planning. There is a state-specific accreditation for estate planning in many states. All attorneys must be admitted to the Bar Association in the state(s) they wish to practice.
What they do: Estate planning attorneys focus on helping families address the financial More