What You Missed: Symposium 2019 Highlights

Aug 29, 2019 8:55:28 AM


Symposium is the nation’s leading estate and business planning conference. This year, Symposium offered over 50 learning sessions with 5 learning tracks, 45 speakers, our new Paraprofessional Symposium, and explored some exciting new services and products. If you weren't able to attend, check out what you missed in the highlights below!

Speaker Highlights

Michael Gerber, the best-selling author of The E-Myth Revisited and The E-Myth Attorney, delivered the keynote address to a packed auditorium. Gerber's books focus on growing your business from a company of one to an enterprise of a thousand by learning how to step out of the role of the Technician and into the role of the Entrepreneur. He meticulously and methodically walked attendees through the key aspects of his theory, explaining how we could—today—begin the first step along the path to success.

WealthCounsel's CEO, Dick Cross, led two thought-provoking sessions entitled, "Be the CEO of Your Practice" and "Vision, Strategy, Execution." Central to Cross's message was understanding how to navigate the various stages of success while capitalizing on critical transitions in the typical law practice cycle. These sessions outlined the essential mindset shifts practitioners need to lead thriving practices and fulfilling lives.

Bob Keebler underscored the potential problem for conduit trusts if much anticipated SECURE Act becomes law. Conduit trusts have been an oft-used “safe haven” approach, enabling trusts to qualify as designated beneficiaries with RMDs paid to and based upon the trust’s beneficiary’s life expectancy. Under the SECURE Act, conduit trusts potentially face implosion because, in year ten, the entire remaining IRA balance must be paid to the beneficiary. In his Symposium session, Bob Keebler raised several possible solutions for battening down the RMD hatches (and the attendant income tax consequences), including conduit trust decanting to remove conduit language and substitute accumulation trust terms; leveraging Roth conversions to spread distributions over many years to lower tax brackets in order to ease income tax; the use of multi-generation spray trusts to spread income across a large number of taxpayers; and adding life insurance to the mix to offset increased tax-risk of early death, among other possible solutions to analyze in response to the SECURE Act.

WealthCounsel can help you stay on top of industry changes and obtain your CLE credits throughout the year. Learn more about our educational sources and visit our Continuing Education Calendar to register for any upcoming webinars!

Natalie Choate, a renowned expert on retirement assets and estate planning and author of the must-have-book Life & Death Planning for Retirement Benefits, closed out Symposium 2019 on a high note. During her 2+ hour session in a packed ballroom with several hundred attorneys, Natalie Choate shared her knowledge and sense of humor. Through several case studies, she examined unanticipated circumstances at the death of the account owner, including benefits payable to a QTIP, spousal rollovers, special needs beneficiaries, and large estates. To close out this session, Natalie Choate discussed duties of executors and several cleanup strategies practitioners should consider. 

Mat Sorensen, author of the Self-Directed IRA Handbook, introduced a relatively novel strategy for maintaining control and potentially increasing returns on retirement account investments. A self-directed IRA is an IRA (Roth, Traditional, SEP, Inherited IRA, SIMPLE) where the custodian of the account allows the IRA to invest into any investment allowed by law (e.g., real estate, promissory notes, precious metals, and private company stock). Mr. Sorensen warned of the prohibited transaction rules of IRC section 4975 that restrict with whom a self-directed IRA may transact. In short, the prohibited transaction rules restrict a retirement account from engaging in a transaction with someone who is a disqualified person (e.g., the account owner, their spouse, children, parents, and certain business partners) to the account.

In his course on Private Decanting, Steve Oshins presented the different levels of flexibility among the 29 states that have statutes allowing a trustee to decant assets from an irrevocable trust into a new trust with different terms for one or more of the same beneficiaries. Seven of the 29 states that provide for statutory decanting do not require copies of the new trust instrument to be given to the trust beneficiaries, providing utmost privacy to the client. Oshins discussed various scenarios in which decanting can be a powerful tool for repairing problematic irrevocable trusts outside of court and without beneficiaries' involvement.

DAPTs still work: under the right conditions. In his Symposium presentation on Asset Protection Planning After Toni 1 Trust, Jay Adkisson reviewed the client conditions necessary for a domestic asset protection trust (DAPT) to work (settlor and assets must be located in a DAPT-friendly state and the settlor/debtor must not be in bankruptcy) as well as situations where DAPTs don’t work. Toni 1 Trust involved an Alaska DAPT where asset transfers occurred after the rise of creditors’ claims. While not the death knell of DAPTs, Toni 1 Trust illustrates the continued need to plan in advance for asset protection. 

In the popular session, Business Succession Planning: Transition Plans for the Professional Practice, co-presenters Peter Myers and Bill Mandel provided valuable guidance about the important considerations attorneys should explore with their clients in preparing for the business ownership transition process. They discussed the benefits and impact of several possible choices for accomplishing the transition, including a management buyout, a merger and acquisition, an employee stock ownership plan, and combinations of those strategies, as well as the proper valuation methods for each choice. The session also addressed the goals of potential new owners and the documentation needed for the ownership transition.

Paraprofessional Symposium

This year’s Symposium included the Paraprofessional Symposium, a full-day of learning for paralegals and support staff. Sessions included The Do’s and Don’ts of Funding, First Impressions are Everything: The Initial Phone Call, and How to Handle the Difficult Client. With over 50 attendees, this inaugural mini-symposium was a great opportunity for learning, networking, and sharing ideas.

Peer Groups 

Symposium attendees heard testimonials from members Cory Howes, Eleanor Washburn, Hank Weatherby, Jim McVittie, Keith Davis, Keith Tokerud, Shawn Eyestone, Stan Miller and Tom Flannagan how participation in a WealthCounsel Peer Group benefits their practices, what they learn through the program, and how participation affects their lives.  

For those who aren’t familiar with WealthCounsel Peer Groups, the program was created with the understanding that the road to success doesn’t stop when one becomes a great practitioner. Law schools teach the law, but not how to run a successful law practice—and that’s where we come in. WealthCounsel Peer Groups are tailored to meet the needs of estate planning attorneys running their own practices. Our Peer Groups focus on developing your business plan, growing your client base, optimizing your billable hours, and utilizing technology for high-performance results in a setting that features a few select colleagues in similar stages of their careers and professional facilitators - Thomas M. Fafinski and Nathan W. Nelson - to lead the discussion.

Learn how to join a Peer Group by clicking here.


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