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Why Advisors Need to Get Smart on Estate Planning


By Dan Collison

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “estate planning?” Death and taxes, perhaps? If so, Advice2Advisors’ Daniel Collison is here to help change that answer to “choice and control.”

Many financial advisors avoid hosting estate planning seminars for a number of reasons, but there is a strong case for why advisors should incorporate this topic into their seminar marketing model – number one being that it is a very profitable area for advisors to work in.

During the more than 30 years Dan has spent in the financial services industry, including working as a practitioner and most recently coaching advisors, one thing is certain: many advisors are not comfortable talking about estate planning with clients. They’re even less comfortable talking about the topic in a public setting, like a seminar.

We chatted with Dan about why advisors shy away from estate planning conversations and how they can get smart on estate planning essentials.

Q: If estate planning seminars are so beneficial to the public, why do many financial advisors avoid this topic?

A: There are two main reasons why advisors avoid hosting estate planning seminars: (1) they either don’t have a deep understanding of estate planning, and therefore aren’t comfortable presenting on it, and/or (2) they believe most prospects and clients won’t be interested in the subject until much later in life.

For many advisors, the topic of estate planning is uncharted territory and from what I’ve seen, unfortunately, many advisors who do present on the topic are missing the opportunity to simplify its complexities so that the audience can better understand those complexities and subsequently, their need for professional advice.  

Additionally, many advisors who possess estate planning knowledge haven’t seen much success in seminars because they often lose their audience in the first few minutes by talking with too much technical language. Rather, they should engage their audience with questions that help the participants become part of the conversation.

Q: How can advisors successfully incorporate estate planning into their seminars?

A: I recommend starting with the basics. Advisors need to understand that an estate plan is much more than just a will. A will is the document that outlines the ultimate distribution of an estate and only gains power once an individual has passed away. A true estate plan will encompass what the will contains, but also might take into consideration how assets can remain outside of the estate; possibly being distributed prior to death. Also, the estate plan will need to outline how the estate will be funded, which might also remain outside of the will – especially in cases of corporations, trusts and insurance benefits.

One way an advisor can help convey the importance of estate planning during a seminar is to get personal. Discuss the fact that the majority of estate litigation is the result of unhappy family members (most who feel they’ve been slighted) suing each other; it’s ugly, but it’s something many people are personally familiar with. Just ask your audience for a show of hands of those who have been involved in managing an estate, and those who have will quickly describe the nightmare of doing so. You can help save them from that mess.

Q: What advice would you give to an advisor who is on the fence about hosting an estate planning seminar?

A: Estate planning seminars are like all other financial seminars: the advisor’s job is to disturb and motivate their attendees. Disturb them about what they don’t know, warn about the harm a lack of knowledge can do then motivate them to seek professional help: you, the advisor! And, although technical knowledge is important, it’s important not to get too technical right away…that’s what scares people off. You can easily avoid getting too far into the weeds by first asking your audience the right questions. Ask them things that hit home like:

“Who would you name as your executors, your trustees, as guardians to your children?”

“Do you have a favorite charity or institution that you would like to support?”

“Do you have any concerns that any of your beneficiaries might not do well with what you leave for them?”

There is a lot of technical estate information the public doesn’t understand, but as you ask more questions, you’ll be able to engage them in a simplified way, helping them realize why they need to act now rather than later. This goes right back to appealing to emotions; emotions drive action.

Use personal stories to make a better, more personal connection with your audience. Once you get their full attention by being conversational, you can much more easily flow into technical information. Stories will help make your seminar more engaging, more memorable and stand out from any others your guests have attended.

Q: If advisors are concerned they won’t present well on estate planning, why don’t they partner with an attorney?

A: This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re not very strong in estate planning and you partner with an attorney, you can lose control of the presentation and the audience…which is the exact opposite of what you want! I think it’s fine to put an estate attorney in front of your clients, as they’re already your clients (this can help solidify your relationship, too), and you can also begin to cross-pollinate client bases with the attorney. However, putting an attorney in front of prospects could cost you clients by making your presence and information secondary to the attorney’s.

If you’re looking for technical estate training or an accredited designation, I recommend looking into the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Even if you choose not to go for the TEP designation, you can select specific courses to take and attend conferences to help you grow your knowledge, with the added benefit of connecting with many estate attorneys and accountants.

Q: Do you have any final pieces of advice for advisors interested in getting smart on estate planning?

A: Estate planning discussions are the perfect “disturb and motivate” opportunities. You get to embed the idea of “legacy” into your clients’ and prospects’ minds, then help them sort through strategies to achieve those legacies. Because legacy planning is very emotional, and emotions drive action, the ability to get people to move on the required actions to achieve those legacies becomes easier.

With that in mind, estate planning seminars are the best way to mass-prospect to this very interesting and profitable opportunity. Offering no-cost estate planning seminars to the public can keep your prospecting funnel full and ultimately lead to a constant flow of referrals and introductions through the estate planning you do for your new clients.

To do this well, an advisor needs to create a process to regularly host such seminars. You need to put some effort into learning the basics of estate planning and create a schedule to host these seminars on a regular basis. The more you do, the better you get and the more profitable your business becomes! It’s a definite WIN/WIN scenario between the advisor and the client!


Written by: Dan Collison, Managing Partner at Advice2Advisors

Dan has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, having worked for many years as a practitioner. His primary focus and passion has been on the education and development of financial advisors with a specific emphasis on ensuring a comprehensive, holistic approach to financial planning. Dan has developed and delivered hundreds of programs for training, mentoring and coaching advisors of all tenure – using a combination of positive psychology coaching and goal-centered coaching. He regularly presents seminars and keynote addresses to prospects, clients, advisors and management teams. Dan teaches Personal Financial Management in the MBA Program at Schulich School of Business, York University, and is the acclaimed author of The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Excellence, Carswell Publishing. His forthcoming book, PainFREE Prospecting, The Financial Advisors’ Guide to Client Acquisition, will be out later this year.

Visit the Advice2Advisors website to learn more.


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