When Two Trusted Advisors Disagree

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Sands Anderson PC

Occasionally, you may receive conflicting advice from two people – both people you trust, both skilled in their fields. How do you decide what to do?

In my experience, this kind of conflict usually comes up when your advisors are looking at the problem from different perspectives. Take steps to get both individuals together to discuss the situation (as early in the process as possible!). I’ve found that in doing so, conflicting opinions are often resolved, and the resulting course of action is improved.

For a concrete example, I am frequently called on to prepare estate plans for clients with special needs beneficiaries. I am blessed to be from a large family, and I have siblings with their own special needs issues, so that kind of planning comes very naturally to me.

I once went to considerable effort to craft a highly specialized trust for a client with very specific special needs issues in her family. A few days after we finalized the plan and I gave the client instructions on retitling bank accounts, she called me practically in tears. An advisor with whom she had a close relationship had expressed bafflement over why she would have set up a trust, when she could simply have named beneficiaries on her bank accounts for free!

The advisor was, understandably, looking at the situation from a strict dollars and cents standpoint. What is the cheapest, fastest way to get money to the next generation when you die? Sometimes a simple beneficiary designation is exactly the right tool for the job.

However, in this case, using a beneficiary designation alone would have been disastrous. When my client died, a considerable sum of money would have gone directly into the possession of someone who was incapable of managing it. As a result, the beneficiary would be cut off from all benefits and the specter of possible exploitation by guardians not chosen by my client would increase.

I arranged a telephone call between the three of us, explained the reason for the plan to the advisor, and received his enthusiastic approval. I was looking at the situation from my standpoint as an asset protection and estate planning specialist; the advisor was looking at the situation as a financial specialist.

Since that incident, I’ve made a conscious effort to involve my clients’ other advisors early in the process! What seemed to be a very serious disagreement was simply be a matter of perspectives.

There are decisions where there are serious tradeoffs on either side and reasonable minds can disagree about which way to fall. But many times, all it takes to resolve a dilemma is a conversation.

If you hear things that seem irreconcilable from people you trust, give them both the benefit of the doubt. Talk it through with them, and you might wind up with a better result than you expected.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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