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“Financial planning” can mean a lot of things but Steven Jarvis and his guest Danny Lohrfink, Chief Product Officer at wealth.com agree that taxes and estate planning are two areas that every client should be getting help with. Steven and Danny discuss the challenges of Financial Advisors being able to help in these areas even when they are not themselves CPAs or Attorneys and share ways that the Advisor can still be involved without having the full service in house. Estate planning and tax planning clearly have their own unique sets of requirements but Steven and his guest explore the overlap and the similarities of what the most successful Advisors are doing to deliver massive value to their clients in these areas.
Steven and his guests share more tax-planning insights in today’s Retirement Tax Services Podcast. Feedback, unusual tax-planning stories, and suggestions for future guests can be sent to email@example.com.
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We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services podcast, Financial Professionals Edition. I am your host, Stephen Jarvis CPA, and with me today I have Danny Lohrfink, the Chief Product Officer at wealth.com. Danny, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Steven. Pleasure to be here.
Now, Danny, this is gonna be a gross oversimplification, but wealth.com helps financial advisors with estate planning, retirement tax services, helps advisors with tax planning. And one of the reasons I was excited to have a conversation with you and have you on the show is that estate planning and tax planning are both areas where I never have advisors try to convince me that they’re not valuable to clients, but there’s so many advisors who have no idea how to actually deliver value to their clients on this topic.
Yeah, no, I think that that’s spot on. It’s always a gap that advisors try to fill and they don’t really know the best way, and they always end up resorting to what they know, which is a one-off referral. And times are changing. People are looking for new solutions, new digitally led solutions. People are looking for less friction more bang for their buck. Shelling out thousands of dollars for something that can be delivered in a much more scalable way is just, I think, a way of the past, frankly.
Yeah. So again, with tax planning or estate planning, you have a couple of different options when you’re in the financial advisor seat because you can’t just pretend these don’t exist. There certainly are advisors who say, yep, that’s not really my wheelhouse client. All the best of luck to you that’s hopefully an option that none of our listeners are taking. That’s probably why they’re listening. They wanna do more the I think the more common option that people take on both of these is what you’re exactly what you’re saying of let me have a one-off referral and I’m still kind of just wishing you all the best. I’m not really taking ownership, I’m not taking responsibility, even though estate planning and tax planning are both integral parts of an overall financial plan. Just I think, and I’ll have you speak to this as well. I think some of it might even be just a feeling of I’m not sure what I can do. I’m not a CPA, I’m not an attorney, and so you know, the advisor feels like this is my best option, is making a referral and wishing them all the best. There are a handful of advisors and part because there’s more and more tools both for tax planning and estate planning who are saying, no, let me quarterback this relationship and here’s the tools I’m gonna use to do it.
Yeah. And, and that’s spot on. The financial advisor, I think you and I both agree, should be the quarterback of the client relationship. They naturally have more touchpoints with the client. They are the ones that are experiencing the most dynamic fluctuations in the day-to-day, given the force of the market itself. So it’s natural for the advisor to be the quarterback. It’s also important when the financial advisor is billing themselves as delivering holistic planning to the client that they’re living up to that. And so when you’re thinking about a client’s financial lives and you’re thinking about their holistic wealth picture, well, part and parcel of that is the taxes that they need to pay and estate planning, generational wealth transfer, legacy planning, right? It goes hand in hand. I’d almost say that financial planning and estate planning are two sides of the same coin. And so it’s really fundamentally critical for a financial advisor not to plead ignorance and say, Hey, no, that’s actually not, you know, what I touch and what I do, because at least from the estate planning point of view, you need to have a good strong grapple over what the end goal will be.
What will the end plan be in order to inform the present?
Yeah. I often tell advisors on this podcast that if as the advisor, you are not following it all the way through to on the tax side that’s reporting, if you’re not following it all the way through to what gets reported the IRS, then, I mean, what are you even doing? Because, every money decision has a tax impact. And this isn’t the realm I spend most of my time in, but as we were talking about this, I mean, every money decision really has a legacy impact as well. Unless you’re that one person who can actually get it exactly right to have their last check bounce. And even then you’ve created a problem for someone. I mean, so these are to your point, two signs of the same coin. If you are trying to make a plan with money, you’ve gotta address death and taxes, right? These two unequivocal, and again, I mean, you brought it up right out of the gate that a lot of advisors just go with, let me make a one-off referral and hope for the best. But that’s just not massive value to a client.
Well, it’s not massive values to the client, it’s also ignoring the realities of the ground. The reality is that 62% of Americans don’t have a estate plan or their estate plan is out of date. And when I say estate plan, I’m talking about the bare bones, the fundamentals, the last will and testament, right? Like, it doesn’t get more any more basically than that. And if you’re a financial advisor and you’re looking around and you’re looking at your book of business and saying, Hey, yeah, my clients are taken care of, the people that want estate plans have them, the people that don’t wanna estate plans don’t have them. I think that that’s a little bit presumptuous. And you need to be asking yourself, why do the clients that not have an estate plan, not have an estate plan? Is it because they don’t want to have a last well and testimony that’s going to direct where their assets go when they pass away?
That’s going to determine who is the guardian for their children. It’s going to determine who inheritance takes care of their pets when they die. Like, no, of course they wanna have control over that. We’re all control freaks at the end of the day. We all want control over what’s going to happen. The reason why we don’t have it is because there’s so much friction involved. There’s costs involved there’s time friction involved, and there’s a lack of education. And so by putting the financial advisor in a position where they can deliver really high quality estate planning to their clients with minimal friction, with lower costs, and with a whole wealth of resources and education that is quarterbacked by the advisor, you’re enhancing the success of the overall wealth planning process.
Yeah. There definitely are those friction points. And I think some of what you’re speaking to is that kind of acknowledging, and it’s the same on the tax side, kind of acknowledging that this isn’t a simple thing, even though we’re you and I are both here saying, Hey, advisors need to address this. I mean, we can acknowledge here that it definitely is hard. It’s challenging there. I mean, there might even be more barriers to entry on the estate planning side because, I mean, I’m a CPA. I had to get licensed as a CPA and that covered me in all 50 states, right? As an at, there’s individual state tax rules. I don’t have to get licensed in every state. I mean, for advisors who work with clients, and more and more advisors work virtually with clients. Now you’ve gotta find your referrals in every single different state. I mean the attorneys that are licensed. So it’s a great point. There is a lot of friction to it. So how do you help advisors go from okay, if they agree with your premise that they should be the quarterback, but well, great. Now what?
Yeah. Well, it’s a really good point to raise where lawyers are barred in certain states. Some lawyers are barred in multiple states, but rarely do you have, even at the biggest firms, even at the Norton, Fulbright Rose, the premier, you know, institutions like they don’t even have t&e practices in all 51 jurisdictions. So how do you create a really scalable model to be able to facilitate a continuous estate planning process? As, and the way that we think about estate planning is not a one and done. It’s not just you create your well and you say goodbye cuz things change. The average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. You know, once you hit the age of 30, that number drops to six. You still have six moves left projected once you hit the age of 30. But each time you move, if you’re moving states, that necessitates an update to your estate plan because each state has their own probate process and it goes through the probate courts.
And so you need to make sure that your documents are state specific. And if you are working with an attorney that’s barred in New York and they don’t have either another person in their practice that’s barred in Florida, when you move to, right what are you going to do? You’re going to have to pay another a thousand bucks to “floridize” your documents if you’re moving from New York to Florida. Well, what we do is we solve that. We have developed our network of attorneys across all 51 jurisdictions, and we’ve effectively created a hybrid model where we’ve digitized the estate creation process. You do your intake form that you would with a trust and estate attorney, and then we deliver you the final estate planning document instantly because we’ve done all the heavy lifting upfront. But then if you want to talk to a t&e attorney bespoke, you can. So it’s giving people the flexibility to effectively have fully digital or have the human interaction their choice. And it is in every single jurisdiction. And so we’ve really achieved that scale where you’re not incurring those costs when you’re creating your documents upfront, but also for the ongoing updates to continuously make sure that your plan is optimized. We’re also making sure that the costs are kept down because all that heavy lifting across state lines has already been baked into the .
That’s really interesting. Again, I feel like at least from a high level, what you’re doing at wealth.com for estate planning is similar, at least in concept to what we’re doing in Retirement Tax Services on taxes. And, and so part of my question is probably partly just cause I’m not an advisor and need some help understanding this. We’ve talked about helping advisors to become the quarterback of the relationship. And so, your initial description is Hey, here’s a tool that can do all this for you. But how does that keep the advisor engaged? Because that seems very important to the advisor that it’s not just a different one-off referral. But how does wealth.com keep advisors engaged in that process and help them be the quarterback?
Yeah, it’s a really good question. So what we did was we built out a dedicated advisor portal. That dedicated advisor portal allows the advisor to invite their clients to wealth.com to be able to create their estate plans. And through that portal, the advisor is able to have full transparency into the client’s estate planning process, what documents are recommended for them based on an evaluation that the client will go through during the onboarding process with wealth.com. So if you’re in a community property state, you should have a joint revocable trust. If you’re in a common law state, you should typically each have, if you’re married individual revocable trust for you and your spouse. So full visibility into the structure of the plan, right? What documents should be included, but then the progress of each of those documents, then the advisor is able to double click in and see the underlying details of the estate plan.
What are the key provisions? How are the assets getting distributed? 45% to one child, 45% to another, and then 10% to a charity. Is it going entirely to the spouse first? If the spouse preces, is it going to a mixture of nieces and nephews because you don’t have children, right? All those provisions and you know, who the key decision makers are, et cetera, are all summarized in this portal. And the advisor has visibility into the ultimate document that’s generated. So they can actually download and view the PDF of the document. So on that biannual basis, as they’re checking in with their client they’re able to tick through things and say, Hey, just wanna make sure that the beneficiaries of your state plan are still as intended that the executor of your state is still the same person that you want to serve as the executor.
Did you have a falling out with your brother? Right? And that allows you as the advisor to really keep a pulse on things that are deeper than the performance of the portfolio, but really what matters to the client the relationships that they have. Cause there are so many relationships that go into an estate plan, and it really fosters this more holistic discussion around who the client is, who’s important to the client, who’s important in the client’s life, right? So it opens up almost this entire other realm of conversation for the advisor to have.
If a client walk through your door right now and asks to see their 10 year tax plan, what would you do? How would you answer that question? What would you show them? What actions have you taken as a financial advisor to ensure you’re delivering massive tax value to every single one of your financial planning clients without being a CPA? If you are like the hundreds of financial advisors that reach out to us from across the country, you know, you need to do a better job for your clients when it comes to tax planning. And that is why leading financial advisors across the country will be going to Las Vegas, Nevada, September 27th through the 29th to learn directly from retirement tax services, how they can improve their tax planning for financial planning clients. Go to retirementtaxservices.com and register to attend this incredible tax planning session September 27th through the 29th in Las Vegas, Nevada.
So many good points in there, regardless of what tool you end up using to address estate plan with your clients. I like that you’re highlighting the relationships and and, and how that impacts people. One of the things that we’ve found is that most people don’t think or talk in terms of percentages, but it’s super common, especially in a beneficiary situation to say, okay, Sally’s getting 45%. And so one of the things we’ve found in working with advisors is that we have a huge impact by helping them learn more effective ways to communicate with clients. And estate planning death is certainly a hard topic to discuss with people. So I guess, how are you helping advisors with the communication piece? What are you doing to empower them to have these challenging conversations?
Yeah, so what we’ve done is we’ve gone out and just hired the best talent across the country. So we didn’t want to just create another platform for people to be able to create their documents. We wanted to really elevate the game. So we brought in plus estate attorneys from McDermott Will & Emery, from Perkins Coie, from Bond Schoeneck & King, really the preeminent T&E firms, across the country. And they’ve infused the entirety of the ecosystem with their wealth of knowledge, right? Wealth.com is not just monetary, it’s not just riches, it’s wealth of knowledge, it’s wealth of relationships, and that’s all infused into the platform, all of their intelligence. But when I say infused, just having tooltips or FAQs or, you know, guided tutorials, that’s a way of the past. I that’s much more of like a, you know, 2010s model.
The model today actually needs to be proactive. Next, specs, action, machine learning. So we actually hired the head of machine learning from Vanguard to lead that effort to effectively take all of that intelligence from the minds of our in-house trust and estate attorneys, and embed it into the platform to identify common circumstances amongst clients to be able to proactively deliver unique recommendations or things to consider, I should say, for the advisor. So within that advisor portal, the advisor also gets an effective tab that is a rundown of things to think about within each client’s estate plan, opportunities to be able to optimize the estate plan. So the client is always experiencing from both ends, both within the wealth ecosystem, the wealth platform when they log in, you know, proactive delivery of guidance, but also from the financial advisor and the financial advisors empowered with the tools and the knowledge to be able, to communicate.
Now, we’re also super aware that financial advisors want to help their clients, but they don’t wanna cross the line. They don’t want to cross the line into some unauthorized practice of law. And so we’ve created these really unique divisions where we’re able to deliver appropriate guidance and have the advisor be able to effectively relay that to the end client the same way that they would relay any bit of research that they’re receiving from your firm, from, you know any other firm to their clients without stepping into those muddy waters. And that was a big focus of ours from the get-go, is how do we really enhance the advisor’s capabilities without putting them in a compromising position. So we’ve really I think found a nice niche.
Yeah, definitely a lot of really interesting things in there. One of the things that really stands out to me, I mean, you’re talking about not only to cross that line, that’s another real close comparison point between estate planning and tax planning when it comes to how advisors work with it. A recent podcast guest who is gonna be speaking at our summit this fall an attorney who works with RIA specifically on these compliance issues. And I, so I’d be curious your thoughts on the estate planning side, but what we find with most advisors on the tax planning side is that when they have that fear of crossing the line, they stop so far short of the line that they’re not really delivered any value because they’re not sure how, they, I totally understand wanting to stay outta trouble. You, shouldn’t cross those lines, but it’s helping advisors realize that there probably is a lot more you could be doing for your clients without even flirting with that line. I would imagine it’s similar on the estate planning side.
No, that’s exactly right. We have contracted with, you know, a number of third party external law firms to really give away of the land on what constitutes authorized tax of law, what is permissible, what can advisors do, what can they not do? And then in particular, reviewing the wealth.com platform to make sure that it complies, right? And what we’ve found is that you’re exactly right. A lot of advisors today just stop entirely short, and they say, I don’t even want to dip my toes anywhere close to this water, so I’m just going to give you a name and a number of an attorney that you can go and call. But that’s very disadvantageous to the client because in many cases, the client doesn’t need to pay $5,000 for a pretty simple estate plan. And, so the client is faced with this opportunity cost, am I going to shell out $5,000 when I’m 40 years old, don’t think I’m gonna die any anytime soon for an estate plan, or am I gonna use that money to pay down my mortgage? Right? And, that’s when we go back to that statistic at the top of the show of close to, you know, 60, 62% of Americans not having an estate plan, that’s part and parcel of it, is that the advisor almost is trying to cya themselves so much that they end up putting their client in a position where the opportunity cost is too great for them to move forward.
There’s a lot of areas of financial planning that get kind of tricky to define success. And so with tax planning, at least we can quantify and we can look at what would your taxes be over the next 10 years if you do nothing, and then if you implement these recommendations, sure. There’s certainly some qualitative pieces of we can take some paint outta the process. We can make, feel taken care of as you have somebody on your team. There’s a lot of different things we can do. I’d really be curious your thoughts on how should advisors be thinking about success in terms of working with their clients on estate planning?
Well, I think first and foremost is does the client have peace of mind at the end of the day? Like that’s most important. People joke all the time in financial advisors in particular, that their job is, you know, partially financial planning, partially investing, and then partially, you know, therapist trying to talk to their clients through difficult markets. And I think it’s really important to acknowledge that just getting the plan up and running in the first place is a success in and of itself. You don’t need to layer in all these complex tax strategies. You don’t need to have the graphs, the SLATs from day one that can come over time, but just go get started and make sure that if something were to happen, that the client is protected, that the client feels like if they go on this trip to Europe and god forbid something happens, then the kids are taken care of.
I think that first and foremost is success. Now, there will come that time that, you know, people need to be thinking about their estate taxes, right? Like if you live in Oregon, the state to estate tax threshold is $1 million. Yeah. And it’s a tiered system so that, you know, if you have an additional 500,000, that 500,000, so if you have 1.5 million in Oregon, when you pass away within your estate, that additional 500,000 is taxed at 10%. So if you die with a $1 million house and you got another 500 k, let’s say you have a $500,000, you know, life insurance policy that wasn’t in an eyelet, right? And, you pass away and that death benefit is going to be paid out, well, that’s a 50 K bill that’s going to the state of Oregon. So that’s where it evolves to first and foremost, you need to get the plan in place to give peace of mind. And then when you start thinking about the next level down, you need to start thinking about how to optimize and having a firm like yours, having a firm like ours, working together with the financial advisor to achieve that ultimate success, I think is critical. The financial advisor can’t do it alone.
Yeah. So it’s really, again, on either side tax planning or state planning, it’s starting with those, what are those consistent things that we can be doing that we don’t get hung up on whatever the flashiest headline was. How many acronyms can we get involved that doing the consistently executing and implementing on those? Well, what might to a lot of people seem like simple things, but they can make all the difference. Especially if our alternatives are do every crazy thing we’ve ever heard of or do nothing. No. Let’s get started. Let’s take some action, let’s help on the estate plan side, let’s help have this piece of mind on the tax plan side. Let’s just start sanding off the rough edges. So yeah, I really like that.
Yeah, no, exactly. You gotta start somewhere. And it may even be getting a healthcare directive in place, or a financial power of attorney. I mean, look, I just moved from New York to New Jersey. I just closed on a home with my wife in New Jersey on February 15th, so just a few days ago. And we were down in Florida at the time, and so we couldn’t be there present for the closing, but title company needed documents to be signed, and so we need to have a power of attorney so that somebody could sign on the dotted line for us. And in that case ended up being my wife’s stepfather who stepped into our place and signed on the dotted line. But power of attorney is an estate planning document, right? Healthcare directive, giving your loved ones the ability to advocate on your behalf if you’re incapacitated, and if you’re not able to do so to make medical decisions for you. That also is an estate planning document. So you don’t need to think about it just in terms of the distribution of your assets or what happens when you die. There are plenty of reasons why you need to have an estate plan for today while you’re living.
Yeah. Danny, I really like how you’re framing that and really, you’ve just naturally led us into how we wrap up every show, which is with action items. And so again, I’m thinking about all the comparisons between tax planning and estate planning. On the tax planning side, I tell every advisor, you have to be getting every tax return every single year in reviewing those. Now, thankfully on the estate planning side, not all these things are gonna change every year, but it almost seems just as mandatory on the estate planning side that you haven’t just asked your clients to check a box. Do you have a will? Do you have a healthcare directive that you’ve gotten those documents, you’ve reviewed them at some point, you know where your clients are at and that you know, what needs to come next? So I like the point you made that this doesn’t have to all happen all at once, Greg, if you have a client that comes to you and has none of those things, pick one and get started. Don’t let the barrier of the overwhelming list stop you from taking any action.
That’s exactly right.
Danny, as you think about advisors helping with their clients with estate planning what’s something else that advisors listening, actions that they can be thinking about as it relates to estate planning to just up their game a little bit on what they’re doing to, to deliver value to clients on estate planning?
Well, look, I mean, there’s a massive wave coming. We talk about the great wealth transfer in terms of managing assets, but you also need to think about what happens in that transfer. There is a transfer that does occur. And assets are moving from baby boomer and silent generations that currently control 70% of all household wealth in the United States, and over the next 20 years that asset base is going to shift into the hands of Gen X millennials, gen Z, and who are those generations? They are more digitally inclined. So don’t be afraid of digital solutions just because it’s digital, right? Embrace it. Understand that technology is intended to increase access, increase scale, and actually reduce risk, reduce the chance for mistakes to happen. That is why technology is there. Our solution, we’ve built a hybrid model because we recognize that there’s always gonna need to be that human element.
People want the frictionless technology intro, right? They wanna be able to get their thing up and running seamlessly. So you can create your documents through our tech platform, but then if you want to talk to a live t&e attorney, an in-house t&e expert, you can do so, right? So don’t be afraid of the technology. The technology is just there to assist in that process, which is going to become even more critical as this great wealth transfer occurs. When people inherit assets, by the way, they are 40% likely to go ahead and create an estate plan, right? It makes sense. You’re inheriting assets through an estate, you’re gonna go ahead and create an estate plan yourself. So as this wealth transfer occurs and these digital inclined generations are getting their hands on assets, this is gonna become a more and more important topic. So get out ahead of it and be the person that your clients can go to for their holistic wealth planning needs, not just financial planning. Holistic.
That Makes a lot of sense. So Danny, for people who are listening who’ve had that experience and don’t want to have it anymore, where it used to just be a one-off referral, I want more of a tool obviously wealths.com is the website. How else can advisors learn more about what you and your team are doing?
The beautiful thing about buying a domain name like wealth.com is that you also get really simple email addresses. So, my email address for instance is firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Chief Partnership Officer’s email address is email@example.com. If you wanted to reach out, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, right? So any number of ways, but feel free to reach out to me directly, email@example.com.
Awesome. Well, we would certainly encourage our listeners to reach out if they’re looking for those resources on the estate planning side. Danny, thanks so much for coming on the show today. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.
Yeah, absolutely. I enjoyed it as well, and I’m looking forward to attending your first conference.
Wow. We are certainly excited about that in September. It’s definitely gonna be an incredible event, definitely a huge focus on tax plan, but like we’ve talked about today, there’s so much overlap in some of these approaches between estate planning and tax plan. So like I said, Danny, thanks very much for being here, for everyone listening, thank you. And until next time, good luck out there. And remember to tip your server, not the IRS.
We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
The information on this site is for education only and should not be considered tax advice. Retirement Tax Services is not affiliated with Shilanski & Associates, Jarvis Financial Services or any other financial services firms.