Estate Planning How To – working with solicitors

Estate Planning How To: working with solicitors

Implementing an effective estate planning engagement process often produces a significant number of referrals to solicitors. The key is adding value for your client, as well as being appropriately compensated for your work. From discussions with numerous advisers and accountants over the years, I have been told that this is one of the most frustrating and difficult areas of the Estate Planning service offering.

Cold Referral: “Go and see your solicitor”

It is challenging to add value when using a Cold Referral. It means you are relying on the solicitor to ask the right questions. The risk is that the solicitor’s approach is that of an '“order taker”, with limited to no skills in estate planning. As a result, your client receives poor advice. I have experienced many of these, how about you?

Warm Referral: “I’ll call your solicitor for you”

This option provides a greater chance that your client will receive valuable legal advice. However, there are no guarantees unless you are involved in the whole process.
I once conferred the benefits of a testamentary trust with a client whose estate was worth close to $2,000,000 (including his home) and a son who would need help from his brothers to manage his inheritance due to a disability.
I contacted the solicitor to notify him following my conversation with the client about protective trusts and their merits. The solicitor showed no interest in the disabled son and told my client “Testamentary trusts are too expensive and don’t work anyway”.
The solicitor, it turns out, had spent 35 years doing mostly conveyancing and, in his experience, a Will was a “freebie” thrown in with a property settlement. This dynamic can place your client and your relationship with them, at risk.

A Partnership with a solicitor OR you facilitate the advice

Partnering with a solicitor: A referral relationship with a skilled estate planning specialist solicitor, built on respect and cooperation. The solicitor is willing and able to refer work to you and won’t undermine your position as the ‘Trusted Adviser’. The Estate Planning for Life system produces the ‘Estate Priorities Report’ to provide a summary of the client and their issues. A solicitor once said to me: “With this, I barely need to meet the client!” The report is designed to establish or cement a relationship with local solicitors.

Facilitating the work yourself: It is challenging to find the solicitor referred to above, hence a number of online specialist estate planning providers have emerged where:

  • either you or the solicitor can gather the relevant client information
  • the legal advice is prepared, with draft documents provided for you to review (if you choose)
  • they conduct a webinar with your client from your office
  • the finalised documents are sent to your office for your client to sign

The fees for online specialists are considerably lower than most solicitors – typically less than 50%. This allows you to add a facilitation fee, retain control of the service and still save your client money.

Good advice puts people first!

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This content has been adapted from the blog of Gil Gordon (with his permission). To visit Gil’s website, please go to


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