Adviser warning: Be careful who you work with

by |

As financial professionals become increasingly specialised, advisers need to be careful about what assumptions they make when choosing who to work with.

When managing a client’s estate, advisers act as a bridge between the client and the range of different professional specialists – from accountants to solicitors.

Michael Perkins, principal at MJP Legal, compares the role of the estate planner to that of the GP, who deals with the front-end diagnostics before handing on to specialists. However, he says that it is vital for advisers to understand that lawyers are not uniformly skilled. For instance, the law of succession stopped being taught as a compulsory subject more than 10 years ago, says Perkins.

He says the big danger for advisers involved in the estate area is presuming that all lawyers are competent to assist them. “The reality is that this is a specialised area. There is a skilled deficit in the legal profession for people that do this work well, and to just push clients back to the last lawyer they used could be an act of negligence.

“Treat legal relationships with great care and don’t presume the person on the other side of the conversation is qualified. It’ll be your assumptions or presumptions that bring you undone more often than not in life, not doubt about it.”

The warning was raised on a LinkedIn discussion in the Australian Estate Planning Group. Financial planner Susan McDermott raised the issue after helping two clients through their partners’ estate distribution, and finding legal offices “made blatant mistakes” and “elongated property transfers”.

Perkins said that it highlighted the difference between relational and professional practice. “What a lot of people aren’t talking about is the fact that doing this relationship based work requires a different business model. It’s not just about trying to push transactional services through the system.”

More stories:

Estate planning specialists build referrals

Tapping into the next generation: A specialised approach

Weird and Wacky Wills

  • Chris on 5/07/2013 9:27:36 AM

    Believe me, when you are spending a large 6 figure sum on their services, you tend to be very focussed on their qualifications and experience. However, the original issue I cited is that they are NOT about delivering outcomes but spending time to generate fees. They also get very well paid regardless, so tend to think they are providing a valuable service, despite, in many cases, overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  • Michael Perkins on 4/07/2013 9:52:29 AM

    Focus in identifying competent lawyers with appropriate qualifications and experience. Ask for references. See if they are accredited specialists or members of the Society of Trust & Estate practitoners. Be as critical a consumer of their services as the other services you rely on in your business.

  • Chris on 4/07/2013 9:27:48 AM

    So just how do you identify an incompetent lawyer, before the 'event'? Throughout their serried ranks, they all get very well paid regardless and in my own experience, even more when they 'stuff up'.

  • Michael Perkins on 3/07/2013 9:36:56 PM

    It is the hallmark of professionalism that an adviser work within their competence, ability and experience, irrespective of their discipline of origin. For financial advisers, best interest duty simply reinforces this general professional obligation. Qualify the adviser before referring the client or insourcing the adviser to your client and the current project. Do not work with inexperienced people. Just some general rules for guidance.

  • Chris on 2/07/2013 3:35:09 PM

    Incompetent lawyers??? I have dealt with quite a few and the ones that weren't are truly memorable. Going after them is simply throwing more time and money into the same unproductive pit. They operate a 'closed shop' for their mutual benefit. Just accept that we live in a country run by lawyers for lawyers.

  • Mike on 2/07/2013 11:27:37 AM

    Does the incompetent lawyer have any responsibilities here? Maybe not take the work in the first place?

  • Chris on 2/07/2013 10:40:46 AM

    Planners would do well to remember that the law is not primarily about delievering justice. It is about identifying pools of capital, such as Estates and transferring these to the legal 'system' through convoluted and contrived time consuming/fee generating 'procedures' without concern for producing outcomes efficiently.

  • Matthew Lock on 2/07/2013 10:23:37 AM

    Michael...I couldn't agree more. All professions suffer from an expertise gulf with daylight between the high end experts and the rest and estate lawyers are no different. Where I have found a real difference in the quality of advice and expertise among estate lawyers are those who are members of STEP...the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners...I will only refer my clients to a STEP member to have their estates analysed and the wealth transfer strategies designed and implemented.

WP forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions