Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Trust & Estate Attorneys: Start Dialing!

In a move that shocked trust and estate attorneys and financial planners across the country, Congress closed 2009 without addressing the 2010 repeal of estate taxes. Will they try to implement a retroactive fix? Can they even do this? There seem to be more questions than answers at this point.

This might actually be a bright spot for trust and estate lawyers. What a perfect reason to reach out to existing clients to determine what a year free from estate taxes means to the client.

An article in the Wall Street Journal 1/2-3/10 issue ("Estate-Tax Repeal Means Some Spouses Are Left Out") highlights unanticipated consequences in wills drafted with the assumption that estate tax avoidance will always be an issue. Money that would normally be directed to a spouse, for example, may be set up to flow to children for tax purposes that will not apply this year.

An attorney's best source of new revenue is from current clients, and this situation creates the perfect reason to reach out to estate clients. Best to take a proactive approach. Here are some ways to be of service, while also positioning your firm as a leader in your local market:

- Write and mail a client alert
- Invite your clients to seminars that you hold on the topic
- Schedule 1-on-1 meetings with your most important clients
- Offer FAQs on the topic on your law firm's website
- Consider a podcast
- Depending on your clientele, a webinar is inexpensive and effective

As part of this outreach, first clearly define the package of trust and estate review services that you are offering. Having some materials ready will help you respond to a flood of inquiries, while saving your time for higher value consulting with your most important clients.

Since this topic is being widely reported, perhaps you could interest a local reporter in writing a story and hopefully mention you as an expert source.

(Of course, attorney advertising guidelines prohibit telephone solicitation of non-clients in many states. However, a law firm certainly can call their own clients as part of their on-going provision of legal services.)

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