Working with Allied Professionals, including Trust and Estates Attorneys, Financial Advisors, CPAs and Fiduciaries in partnership with your donors can be precarious. Here are my top 3 things to consider when working with a team of Allied Professionals.
1. Who is the client?
For estate planning attorneys, this can be tricky, especially when working as an allied professional who is introduced to the donor by the nonprofit. In these instances, the nonprofit is not your client, the donor is. Consequently, it’s important to ensure that the donor has the best possible plan created for them, regardless of how they became your client.
For those representing the nonprofit, it’s important for us to remember that we may not be privy to all of the details and that the donor’s plan is to be crafted between the donor and their advisor(s). Nonprofits may or may not be invited to the table, and we as representatives must respect this process.
2. Who pays for the estate plan?
Legal experts are clear on this – the nonprofit should not be footing the bill for the donor. I understand this may place us as nonprofits in difficult situations. I’ve often personally had donors offer assets in their estate plans if we pay the attorney. Of course, we want the asset, but this is where the waters can get muddied. If our agency pays for the estate plan, it is much easier for the heirs to contest this distribution in the long run. While there is no easy solution if the donor insists that the nonprofit pays the bill, but the bottom line is we should avoid this altogether.
3. Should the family be involved with the gift plan?
It’s important that the family be aware of the estate gift. However, be cautious about having family members attending “gift meetings” with donors and their advisors. Undue influence can be identified at various stages, and it’s important that donors have one on one time with their legal counsel. Children or other family members mean well, but they cannot speak for the donor themselves unless they are legally in a position to do so. Be sure to have at least one meeting with the donor without any other family members present so that you can rest assured the donor is acting of their own volition.
Estate planning can be fraught with hazards, so relying on competent estate attorneys can help avoid such hazards when working with your donors. It’s best to ensure that donors have proper representation which they should finance themselves to secure that future gift. In the end, a gift secured improperly will likely not come to fruition, so it’s best to always be prudent.