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Should You Accept That Estate Planning Seminar Invitation?

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I recently received such an invitation in the mail. Clearly this was a mass mailing of some sort. I’ve received several similar invitations in recent years. While tempted to check one of these sessions out from a professional curiosity perspective, in the end I always opt not to attend because I don’t want to stick the presenter for dinner when I’m clearly not interested.

Should you go to one of these sessions? In deciding you should think about what you would hope to get out of such a session and perhaps do a little critical reading of the invitation.

A few points about the invitation that I received:

  • One of the topics to be covered was “…new developments in estate planning.” What struck me here was that one of the major discussion topics in the area of estate planning is the expiration of many of the provisions of the estate tax rules and the utter chaos this might lead to with some estates. The lack of any new rules is clearly the problem.
  • I Googled the attorney who would be presenting. All I could find about this individual was that he seems to give a very large number of talks on estate planning during the course of a year. A question that you should ask yourself is whether or not this individual would be the one to either draft your estate planning documents or at least oversee the drafting by another attorney in his firm.
  • Further down the body of the invitation, there was a mention of a special presenter to talk about issues in the stock market. Not sure exactly how this relates to estate planning.
  • What I found interesting is that the guest speaker was not named.
  • Moving to the end of the invitation, I noticed that current clients of a well-know brokerage firm were not eligible to attend. I therefore surmised that several brokers from this firm were likely sponsoring the event and one of them was likely our mystery guest speaker.
  • The invitation did promise that no products would be sold at the session.
  • The invitation went on to say that if attendees brought their current estate planning documents that a representative would review them on the spot after the presentation.

Reasons to attend

  • If you are interested in learning more about estate planning, the speaker might provide the some good information.
  • You either like the restaurant or would like to check it out.

Don’t attend if you are susceptible to sales pressure. While the invitation specifically says there will be no financial products sold at the session, you can bet that you will be solicited to do business with both the estate planning attorney and the brokerage firm sponsoring the event. I’ve got to believe that the on-site review of your current documents generally results in a gap in your planning being uncovered. Further, ask yourself if you want your estate planning documents reviewed in this type of setting.

Whether or not you attend this type of session, you should be skeptical as to the connection between the estate planning attorney giving the presentation and the brokerage firm. Both a properly constructed estate plan and proper insurance coverage are key elements of one’s overall financial plan. I am very leery, however, when the providers of these services seem to have some sort of connection. You should ask whether there is any sort of financial arrangement here.

The fact that this estate planning attorney’s main claim to fame seems to be giving estate planning seminars should also raise a red flag. A question to ask is whether or not this attorney is the person with whom you would be working.

Often brokerage firms try to sell insurance and annuity products to the “leads” they generate from seminar attendees. Again there is nothing wrong with insurance or annuity products per say, as long as these vehicles fit your particular situation. Also, I suspect that annuities sold by this type of firm are generally not low cost products. Buyers of annuities should shop for the product with the lowest expenses and least onerous surrender charges that will meet their needs.

In my opinion, a better method to find an estate planning attorney and/or an insurance agent who deserves your business and your trust is via a referral from a trusted advisor like your accountant or your financial planner. Personally, I work with several trusted professionals in both areas and refer my clients to these people when there is a need. I also remain part of the process to review the proposed insurance products or the estate planning documents and to ultimately advise my clients through the process.

Please feel free to contact me with your financial planning questions.

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Comments

  1. Parag says:

    I too receive these kinds of junk mails in email daily. When I take time to read them, I never find anything useful to me at least and more often than not delete them.
    Personal finance

  2. Lynne Butler says:

    There is some good, common-sense advice here. You really do have to read between the lines to know what is being described in the invitation and what is being withheld. I give plenty of seminars to prospective clients, but all are personally invited by telephone by their banking officers, bank managers, or financial advisors. This means that they are hand-picked on the basis of likely needing estate planning services, and also that each prospective attendee has a chance to ask questions about the presenter, the agenda, etc.

  3. Lynne, thanks for your comment. I think estate planning seminars can be a great way to educate perspective clients about this complex topic. It sounds like you and your contact network take the time to invite folks with a potential need. I object to seminars that are nothing but thinly veiled pitches to sell financial products.

  4. Sam H. Fawaz says:

    You make some very good points here Roger. In most cases, there is never a free lunch, or perhaps dinner, when it comes to these kinds of seminars.

  5. Evan Guthrie says:

    Go to estate planning seminars to learn and be educated and do not feel pressured to sign up for anything on the spot. Take your time to choose the attorney that will be the best fit.

    • Roger Wohlner says:

      Evan thanks for your comment and I completely agree. Sadly too many of these so-called seminars are really put on by “trust-mills” and or in conjunction with some insurance guy looking to peddle product.

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