In today’s complicated field of financial planning, no one professional can be a “Jack of all trades.” Your financial planner helps you manage your investments; your CPA advises you on tax planning and filing tax returns; and you might consult your attorney on any number of issues, including setting up a business, litigation, business succession and estate planning. It’s important to build a team of advisors to take advantage of the full range of expertise to run both a business and your personal affairs. However, it’s also paramount that these professionals work together to integrate tax planning with financial planning, estate planning, retirement planning, and so on.
In most situations, each of your advisors provides expertise uniquely designed for your needs. However, because individuals do not usually work together, they generally only understand their bit of the puzzle and not the overall big picture. For example, your estate planning attorney can’t remind you to update your will if he doesn’t know that your financial advisor has repositioned certain assets.
Each advisor will probably tell you what they are functionally doing – and you can pass this on to the others – but you might lack the full understanding of why they chose to handle your affairs in a certain way. Consequently, your other advisors miss out on this key information as well. In addition to planning better, it's important that advisors share information to ensure they are not working at cross purposes.
Colleagues, Not Competitors
There are several reasons independent advisors do not like to work with each other. For one, many are competing for control of your assets. A financial advisor might want to manage all of your investments while an insurance agent wants to reposition a portion of your wealth to an insurance contract – which means the financial advisor will no longer earn a commission on those assets.
There’s also the matter of time. Advisors believe they work for you and do not wish to spend excess time sharing information with other advisors. After all, time is money, and they might not have a business model that allows them to charge for this extra time and effort.
Get Your Team Working Together
You should be vigilant in selecting advisors who are willing to work with each other. Each should receive the same courtesy from the others that you would receive. For example, if your financial advisor tells you he’s left repeated messages but your attorney won’t call him back, that’s a problem. If one member is too busy for others on your advisor team, that’s like saying he or she is too busy for you.
When you meet with each of your advisors, share their contact information and emphasize your expectation that they work with each other. You might want to hold a meeting to introduce the entire team and share what each one does. If you find down the road that an advisor is consistently difficult to reach or will not share information with others, it could be time to find another who is more willing to work with your team.
When selecting advisors, be sure to communicate that part of your hiring criteria depends upon their willingness to work with the rest of your team. Today’s technology makes it easy for advisors to document and share client information electronically, so ensure that they are willing to commit to this requirement.
One way to assemble a collaborative team is to select them from the same network. Often professionals assemble a network of colleagues with whom they already have a working relationship and refer clients to each other. Choosing advisors that connect with each other makes it easier for them to work together.
Another way to centralize your affairs is to assign one of your advisors to work as your team coordinator. In this scenario, you benefit from having one knowledgeable professional assimilate all advice to make sure there is no redundancy, miscommunication or paperwork slipping through the cracks. Taking these steps will help to ensure that your tax, financial, estate and retirement plans are cohesive and integrated.