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The Montana Estate Lawyer

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Estate planning with a team-based approach

I recently finished the book, "The Boys in the Boat," by Daniel James Brown. The book tells the story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany.  It is a story that ended in triumph up for the nine young men that made up the crew team, they being sons of loggers and other working-class families in the northwestern United States who when the team was first assembled were not expected to challenge the established rowing powers in the U.S., let alone those on the world stage.  What was most compelling about the story to me, however, was the fact that after much training, dedication and hard work each member of the team was in top shape and had become a superb oarsman in his own right, but the team as a whole did not achieve winning results until each member figured out and understood that it took the team working together as a team, coordinating their movements and roles within the team, and not just working individually, that their performance reached its highest level.

Good estate planning can often be like eight-oar boat crew.  It is not good enough that each member of the client’s advisory team be a good "oarsman "in his or her own right; the team members need to work together and be on the same page.  When advisors work with and advise the client independently of each other, they run the risk of, at the very least, confusing the client, or worse, competing purposes and agendas between advisory team members.  The result can be very poor for the client, both as to the plan that is put into effect and the client’s experience with the process.

Individual pieces of a client’s circumstances may not tell the whole picture.  When viewed from a team's perspective, the planning recommendation may take on a whole different light and focus.  For more complex planning, the advisory team may consist of an attorney, financial advisor, accountant, insurance professional and perhaps even family members and others.  Building a successful team requires aligning the right people with the right skills that, when working together for the mutual client, will result in the most effective plan that is uniquely tailored to the client.

Keith and I believe very strongly in team-based planning.  We enjoy working with our clients and fellow team members in a way that not only allows us to provide the most value to our clients, but is often an educational experience for all involved.

 Jon


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