Why work with a Legacy Advisor?
Certified Legacy Advisors and Fellows of The SunBridge Legacy Builder Institute believe that an ideal legacy is both integrated and well-rounded.
Certified Legacy Advisors and Fellows of The SunBridge Legacy Builder Institute have been trained to take a practical approach to helping their clients build their legacy.
Certified Legacy Advisors and Fellows of The SunBridge Legacy Builder Institute are equipped with a wide array of practical tools that make legacy building quick, easy, and fun.
The SunBridge Story
By Andrew Gluck, Editor at Large, Financial Advisor Magazine
August 2007 Issue
When he was just eight years old, Scott Farnsworth’s mother died of cancer. “Just before she died, my mom gave my dad a letter and instructed him to give it to me when I turned 12,” says Farnsworth. “As you can imagine, that is one of the treasures in my life to this day.”
Farnsworth says the letter was written to a 12-year-old on the cusp of becoming a teenager. “She told me how to be a good person,” Farnsworth says. “She said that even though she couldn’t actually be there with me, that a part of her would be with me always.”
The letter helped shape Farnsworth not just personally but professionally: As an estate planner, Farnsworth has created SunBridge Legacy Builder Network, a service that trains advisors in a different style of estate planning. His mission is to allow people to experience what he did as a 12-year-old boy, to create estate plans that profoundly affect your heirs and reflect your values.
Farnsworth, an attorney and certified financial planner licensee, says he started the service after a client questioned him sharply about how his trusts were connected to the life he had lived. “I couldn’t really answer him,” he admits. “So that has been my journey for the last 12 years."
“We all have a larger wealth that goes beyond money and property. It includes the wisdom we acquired, the insights that have allowed us to make better decisions as we get older, and our heritage. When you add that in with money and property, then you pass along real wealth.”
The notion that estate planning must be more than the mechanics of GRATs, IDGTS and QTIPs is not new. What is fairly unique is the systematic campaign Farnsworth has created to allow financial advisors to integrate client values into estate plans.
It is not uncommon for a financial advisor to neglect the human side of estate planning. After all, it’s not as if this is a big part of the curriculum when you become a certified financial planner, certified public accountant, chartered financial analyst or any of the myriad other primary designations awarded to advisors. As a result, many, if not most, advisors are deficient at the “soft side” of estate planning.
(I don’t like calling it “soft,” by the way, since that implies that mechanics is the hard side of estate planning. In fact, it is much harder to develop the people skills to do values-based estate planning than to remember that a grantor trust avoids depleting an estate with taxes.) In failing to master these people skills, advisors are blowing a huge opportunity. After all, lawyers are going to be the ones to draw up estate planning documents. So you don’t need to know all the intricacies of every type of trust. You just need to master the basics. Where you can add value in a client engagement, however, is in integrating a client’s values into his or her estate plan. This is also a way of deepening your relationships with clients because the exchanges can be so personal and profound.
Farnsworth has created a series called “Priceless Conversations” in which an advisor presents a client with questions that inspire deep conversation. The series focuses on a range of topics, including your wisdom, values, stories, the meaning of success, the meaning of money and your children. (The full list of topics is available at www.SunBridgeLegacy.com.)
My wife and I spent about 40 minutes on the phone with Farnsworth to go through the “kids” conversation. I had interviewed him a day earlier and my wife had never previously spoken with him. I told my wife, Mindy, almost nothing about what we were doing, just that it was about our estate plan. I just gave her the one-page sheet of 12 questions Farnsworth had e-mailed me and asked her to spend some time thinking about the answers.
Despite the fact that we were not engaging Farnsworth, did not know him and were doing this all over the phone instead of in person, his questions about what we wanted for our kids if we were to die today propelled my wife and I into an emotion-filled conversation about 15-year-old Alison and 14-year-old Jason. We articulated our views on topics that we had never before actually spoken about, like the role of religion in our lives, what we wanted the guardians of our children to know and how we might be able to support our two children’s differing needs.
Some of the questions included:
Please tell me a little about each of your children, especially the things you admire and appreciate about them and their talents and strengths. What makes you proud to be their parents?
What values, principles and life lessons would you most want to pass on to your children if you could? What makes those things important to you? How will those things make a difference in their future happiness?
In what religion or spiritual tradition have your children been raised? How important is your religion or spiritual tradition to you and your family? What are your wishes regarding their future participation in a religion or spiritual tradition?
Are there specific people you have not named as guardians but you want to ensure that your children will maintain a relationship with?
By the time the conversation was done, Mindy and I had thought about ways that we could support our children’s different needs. Alison, an adventurer, could be given a travel stipend annually. Jason, a doer, could be treated to semi-annual visits with successful friends of mine who could become professional coaches. Money could be earmarked to fund memberships at places of worship and for education of the next generation.
By promoting a discussion about what is important to Mindy and me—and not just focusing on the mechanics of protecting our estate from taxes—the estate plan we devise can be focused on supporting our values, making the plan far more meaningful to my wife, myself and our children.
Farnsworth cites many such stories. There’s the divorced entrepreneur with three sons, who set up an advisory board that would assist her children if they ever wanted to start their own businesses. A devout Catholic, she also drafted an estate plan that provided funding for her children to visit sites of religious significance.
Farnsworth has fashioned a successful small business, which he runs from his home near Orlando, Florida, by coaching advisors to high-net-worth individuals. While he is of counsel to a law firm and still serves his own estate planning clients, his main pursuit these days is SunBridge. Farnsworth says that till now it has been attorneys who have embraced the program, but he hopes financial advisors will join the SunBridge Legacy Builder Network.
Farnsworth hosts quarterly two-day retreats, which typically draw 12 to 24 financial advisors, estate planners, and philanthropic professionals.. The workshops cost $795 (or less after a hefty discount for members of his Legacy Builder Network) and are usually held in Orlando. For $95 a month, you receive a membership to the Legacy Builder Network, which provides a variety of benefits including the right to private-label SunBridge materials, use of its Priceless Conversations and other tools with your clients, monthly newsletters and monthly conference calls.
Farnsworth sent Mindy and me a CD with the conversation we had about our children. We’ve put it in a safe place for the kids to listen to one day.