Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting Yourself In Order Step 7: Choosing the Right Advisors

In our series on how to get yourself in order (painlessly) we are now at Step 7 Choosing the Right Advisors. With all the yellow pages and paid referral listings out there you might think this step would be easy. It is easy if you know the right steps to follow and if you don't get caught up in the hype of TV ads.

First, a quick review of the first six steps of getting yourself in order:

1. Protect your house.
2. Protect your car (and yourself).
3. Provide for decision makers in the event of your disability.
4. Create your dispositive document, like a Will.
5. Synchronize your beneficiary designations with your plan.
6. Beware of Uncle Sam in your estate planning.

Step 7: How to Choose the Right Advisors.

Choosing the right advisors is not like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Also, it is not a matter of watching TV ads and then hopping the web or your phone. It is a specific process with steps that you can follow to ensure that you end up a team of advisors designed to be on your side and who will help you accomplish your plan and goals.

Here are the steps:

1. Deal with real experts and real specialists. You don't have your plumber do your lasik surgery do you? Of course not, and you want to use that same philosophy in choosing legal and financial advisors. Avoid referral services that charge people to be listed on them. There are two quite famous services right here in Colorado that charge the people they list many thousands of dollars, but that offers you no comfort that you are dealing with an appropriate expert.

2. Insist on real experience, not a listing in a paid referral list. More details on that below.

3. Choose experts based on the need you have. For example, don't ask your dentist how to do your Will.

4. When picking an estate planning attorney, insist upon at least the following:

A. Full-time estate planning practitioner with at least 7 consecutive years of full time estate planning experience.

B. Membership in the Colorado Bar Association Trust and Estate Section.

C. An AV rating from Martindale-Hubbel, the attorney listing and rating service. You can't buy the rating because it is a peer review process.

5. When picking an an accountant insist on the following:

A. A CPA, that means a certified public accountant.
B. Specializes in tax planning.
C. Member of the AICPA.

6. When picking an insurance advisor insist upon:

A. Full-time insurance advisor with solid experience. I wrote a previous article on how to select a property and casualty insurance advisor, that is a good reference source.

B. For life insurance, the CLU or ChFC designation.

7. Insist that your arrangement with each advisor be reduced to writing with all details spelled out, including the work to be done and details about fees and charges.

If you can follow these simple steps you will be successful in assembling your team of advisors. Let me know how these steps work for you.

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