Why did you decide to become an Attorney at Law focused on estate planning? Aren't you a practicing Certified Financial Planner™ and owner of a successful wealth management firm?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to create a successful wealth management company — Hirst Financial Independence Planning. Because financial planning and estate planning are so closely intertwined, I felt we could better serve our clients if we also provided comprehensive estate planning services. Well-conceived estate plans consider legal, financial, health, retirement, business succession and gift planning. It is the thoughtful and meticulous integration of all these considerations that makes an estate plan good or bad. Prior to my becoming an Attorney, we were required by law to use third parties to provide estate planning services to our financial clients; even though we were often in a better position to make estate disposition recommendations because of our intimate knowledge of our clients personal and financial circumstances. Now that I’m an Attorney, we are able to offer our clients both estate and financial planning services and they are taking full advantage of the opportunity!
Why does your Hirst Law focus exclusively on estate planning and elder law?
We are not a large law practice with dozens of attorneys, paralegals and support staff trying to be all things to all people. Our approach is to focus on a specific area of law, like estate planning, and strive to offer unsurpassed expertise and personalized service in that particular area of practice. I decided to concentrate on estate planning because it is a logical extension of financial planning. Practicing estate law is a perfect fit with my experience and capabilities in wealth management. By marrying the two, it has been a big win-win for my clients and me.
The constant changes in the rules and regulations regarding what you can and can't do with your estate seems bewildering. How do you stay current with the key developments in estate law?
The goal of an estate attorney is to protect and dispose of an individual’s assets in accordance with their personal wishes. Doing so requires up-to-date, in-depth knowledge of the prevailing rules and regulations regarding estate management and disposition. Those rules are ever-changing and, unfortunately, make it very risky for an individual to try to prepare and maintain their own estate plan. As an Attorney, I take continuing education courses to stay current and regularly attend and receive briefings on changes in the law. Plus, I have a fiduciary responsibility to represent the best interest of my clients. While this won’t completely eliminate the risk that the estate plan becomes out-dated, it goes a long way toward minimizing it.
There are lots of attorney's out there that are focused on estate planning and elder law. Why should someone who is looking for an estate attorney choose you?
We are driven to provide family oriented, personalized service to our clients whether its estate planning and/or wealth management. Our expertise in these two areas, coupled with the fact that our clients almost always interact directly with me, has proven to be both comforting and extremely productive. You deal directly with the person you hired and who knows your circumstances in detail — resulting in a long-term, professional relationship built on trust and open communication.
Can you elaborate on the advantages of having your estate planner and financial planner be the same person? Are there any disadvantages?
The biggest advantage is having a single “go to” person to handle your affairs that is intimately familiar with your family, lifestyle and circumstances. Should any issue arise regarding your assets, be they financial or otherwise, all you need to do is make one call, to one person whom you unequivocally trust to do the right thing for you. This provides tremendous piece of mind. I believe this is the main reason why many of my clients see me as part of their extended family.
The key advantage can also be seen as the disadvantage. I constantly tell my wealth management clients to diversify, diversify, diversify to help spread risk. Some prefer to apply that same thinking to their lawyer and financial advisor in order to have a checks and balances system in place where the lawyer and financial advisor can look over each others shoulder. Obviously, it’s the client’s decision to make and we will honor and support their decision at all times.
How can someone learn more about the financial services side of your business?
I’d start by visiting our sister web site at: www.hirstfip.com. You’ll find lots of useful financial planning information there — even if you choose not to use our wealth management services.