Teaming Up to Better Serve Wealthy Clients
By Miriam Rozen
May 12, 2015

When sorting out the roles of experts acting as a team in carrying out estate planning for clients, the advisor who brings the concepts prevails. That’s the strategy that Scott Rawlins tells his advisors to deploy when they assemble a team of lawyers and accountants to serve high-net-worth clients.
Rawlins, the managing director of national marketing for HD Vest Financial Services, which has $38 billion in assets under management through independent brokers, recommends that advisors follow three steps in order: establish client goals, plan for these, and then bring in other professionals. “That way, I am the one bringing in the different scenarios,” Rawlins says.


Once a team of professionals is assembled to plan the estate, take care to protect everyone’s reputations with the client. “We don’t want to embarrass anyone,” says Edward “Ned” Lubell, a UBS financial advisor, whose team in Palm Beach, Fla., has more than $1 billion in assets under management. He typically has conversations “to float ideas” with the other professionals “offstage” before presenting those to clients.

Steve Dudash agrees. “First and foremost, be respectful of the other pros in the room,” he writes in an email. “Don’t make someone else look bad. It will only come back to hurt you. These people are normally very good in their specific industry and just as easily as you can run circles around them in investing or planning, they excel in other areas. Work as a team.”

But Dudash, who is the president of Chicago-based IHT Wealth Management, which has over $200 million under management, adds: “This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t question opinions or plans. In fact, with attorneys, make it a point to find something to challenge them on, politely. It helps show that you are their equal and not just a guy looking to flip stocks or sell a big insurance policy.”

He adds a warning: “You had better know the topics that are going to be discussed. Nobody in that room wants to deal with a rookie. If the attorney is going to be discussing some complicated trust options, you had better know a fair amount about them.”


Kyle Brownlee, a financial advisor who is CEO of HD Vest affiliated Wymer Brownlee in Enid, Okla., which has $510 million in assets under management, recommends limiting the number of attorneys you rely upon. “Many advisors — especially those who are new to working on estate planning concerns for clients — are tempted to develop relationships with multiple estate planning attorneys, in order to build a range of potential referral relationships,” he says.

But that might be a mistake, he adds, because “an advisor’s ability to work in harmony with an estate planning attorney gets stronger the more closely they work with a particular attorney or two.”