Since attorneys and bankers play two closely related roles in the estate planning process, strong cooperation between them is critical to protecting you, your beneficiaries, and your assets. By pooling their skills and perspectives, attorneys and bankers can form a strong alliance that ensures asset protection, minimizes potential conflicts, and ultimately helps clients achieve their financial and probate goals.
The importance of a strong team in the estate planning process cannot be overemphasized. Below are practical strategies for promoting productive collaboration between lawyers and bankers, and explore how these professionals can work in concert to create a solid foundation for the future and provide peace of mind for their clients.
As with other long-term arrangements, the early stages of estate planning will likely determine the course of the entire process. A strong starting point sets you up for success, while a shaky starting point only complicates matters.
Estate planning proceedings should be initiated at a time when all involved are willing to meet in person as much as possible to ensure clarity and alignment. Although virtual meetings have become ubiquitous in recent years, in-person meetings can make it easier for participants to connect with each other and find common ground, saving everyone from emotional and financial battles.
Although it is helpful for loved ones to be present, the same expectation should apply to the bankers and lawyers involved. When both are committed to being there, better relationships are formed in the long run.
During these initial meetings, transparency is a major key to success. Hidden motives and undisclosed information will prevent the plan from working for everyone, and the more complex the family’s situation, the more important it is to put everything out in the open.
According to Mary Ann Kurinek, CEO of Chicago Trust Company, “At that point, this isn’t a business matter; it’s personal. And when families and attorneys are open to those discussions, those are the best-case scenarios.”
Always be clear
In the same vein as transparency, clarity is crucial in all conversations. Leaving your intent unclear by using ambiguous terminology in your estate planning documents is a recipe for disaster—the more direct and direct things are, the more efficient the entire process becomes.
When there is a misunderstanding, things drag on and conflict arises. In some cases, this can escalate into a lawsuit, resulting in the trust assets potentially being used to cover unexpected legal fees and additional trustee fees – a loss for everyone involved.
To prevent this bad scenario, it helps to make sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning. This requires that we be direct and eliminate assumptions by presenting the facts – something that bankers and lawyers involved in a comfortable professional environment should feel comfortable with.
“A lot of times, families don’t want to deal with those difficult conversations about unequal distributions or specific wills, but we don’t mind being the bad guy,” Korenich said. “This is part of our job. We are not enablers, on the contrary.”
Keep each other in the know
For better or for worse, life is unpredictable. Your family situation can be very different one day to the next.
As such, your estate plan should change as your life changes. Whether it’s a divorce, purchasing a new vacation property, or something else, it’s essential that your partners in the estate planning process are aware of any changes that may arise, large or small, to ensure your documents stay organized and up-to-date. .
“We worked with an attorney who did an excellent job evaluating us,” Korenich said of one of her experiences. “Once his client has been notified and approved, he would call us and tell us any time a high-value asset was sold to our client. Since one of the biggest challenges we deal with in estate settlement and credit management is cataloging and collecting assets after someone’s death, this attorney was Great at making sure we were aware of what was there and just as important, and what was no longer there. This is especially important when it comes to personal property, which families often tend to fight over. “
Be reasonable and responsive
Since strong communication plays an essential role in the estate planning process, snail mail just won’t do the trick. For successful estate planning, all parties must be attentive and committed to responding to each other in a prompt manner.
“Response is a two-way street,” Korenich said. “Bankers need to get back to lawyers in a reasonable time frame and set expectations for response, cooperation and meeting halfway rather than being inflexible and uncooperative.”
Meeting halfway is especially crucial. Rather than trying to gain leverage, all parties should aim to be rational – especially when it comes to fees.
“Just because a client has $30 million in real estate, doesn’t mean you can charge $30,000 for the estate plan,” Korinich said. “Complex real estate certainly can warrant such fees, but they may just need the same estate plan as someone with a $3 million estate, depending on their circumstances. So, it’s important to be very reasonable upfront, and transparent about fees from the start. “
Maximizing professional strengths
Bankers and lawyers each bring different strengths to the table. When they work together to gain a comprehensive understanding of a client’s financial assets, objectives and legal considerations, the best results are born.
The expertise demonstrated through this collaborative approach always benefits clients in the long run. Bankers – and especially the in-house team of wealth management professionals – come equipped with valuable financial strategies, and lawyers can work with bankers to ensure strategies comply with relevant laws and regulations. This extends to taxation as well, where bankers can provide insights into tax-efficient investment methods, and lawyers can provide guidance on tax laws and their implications, although none should be considered tax experts unless they are appropriately certified.
“We want to be a good partner to those who help us, and vice versa,” Korenich said. “Collaboration is the key to success.”
Estate planning can be complicated, but for families, the extra layer of emotion on top of that complexity can be plenty. These are difficult conversations. No one wants to focus on the death or incapacity of a loved one.
During this difficult time, lawyers and bankers need to make empathy a top priority – especially when there is family strife. Taking the time to assess what families are going through and understand what they need separates dedicated lawyers and bankers from subpar; The best professionals are able to go beyond just business and connect with clients as people.
“I like lawyers to have an empathetic nature,” Korenich said. “This work is hard. It’s personal. It’s very controversial; families are fighting. There are people behind all of this. There are emotions behind it. There is loss behind it. You need to give families time to grieve and go through these processes.”
Delivering executive excellence
Fruitful collaboration is often made possible through experience. At Chicago Trust Company, a Wintrust Wealth Management company, our trust officers have over 28 years of experience and are ready to answer all of your questions and handle large trust funds with a personalized approach. We work closely with you to create a plan that reflects your intentions while mitigating tax consequences, increasing value, and preserving privacy.
In all 50 states, Wintrust offers a wide range of sophisticated trust and estate services, ranging from trusteeships to charitable trusts. Solicitors maintain the legal work while our teams focus on trust management and investment management. Additionally, we collaborate with attorneys to review plans with existing clients.
Our community-focused team combines the capabilities of a large national organization with the high-touch service of a local store. No account is too small or too large for our experienced team to serve.
Securities, insurance products, financial planning, and investment management services are provided by Wintrust Investments, LLC (a member of FINRA/SIPC), founded in 1931. Trust and asset management services are provided by Chicago Trust Company, NA and Great Lakes Advisors, LLC, at respectively. .
Investment products such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are: Not FDIC Insured | Not guaranteed by the bank | You may lose the value | not a deposit | Not insured by any federal government agency