I spoke to a group of CPA’s yesterday. I had several suggestions for them that I think are relevant to everyone – client and professional – involved in estate planning.
First, the professional’s job is to really, really listen to the client. Without interruptons, without offering advice before all the facts and concerns are on the table, and without talking just to show how smart or knowledgeable the professional is.
The client’s job is to share what his or her concerns really are. Not so easy but crucial for good planning to occur.
The discussion should take as long as it takes. No rushing, no deadlines, no impatience. Good planning – that is really valuable to the client – is based on taking the time to think about and discuss the issues that are keeping the client awake at night as well as the issues the client may not have thought about.
This might take 45 minutes or it might take eight hours. But then and only then is it time to talk about solutions. Then it’s the professional’s job to propose solutions to the client’s problems – and to explain the solutions so that everyone understands. The explanation will be through spoken words, of course. And they’d better be words that everyone is familiar with, no professional jargon. But what about also drawing pictures and diagrams to explain? They can really help. Again, the idea is not to make the professional look smart. It’s to communicate clearly so that the client feels like he’s been heard and that he truly understands the solutions being suggested.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. But if we can work like this, we can do some great planning!