By Harness WealthIndustry News — August 10, 2020

Harness Wealth Firm Consultations: What to Expect and Prepare

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This guide was created to help Harness Wealth clients understand the consultation process with their recommended firms. Based on your Harness Wealth profile information, you’ll be recommended 3 firms of each type that are relevant to your needs (financial advisory, tax, and/or trust & estate firms). We recommend viewing the firm profiles in your Harness Wealth account for an understanding of their basic information: location, advisor staff, specialties, client base, etc. After that, you’ll be ready to select 1 to 2 firms of each type and meet directly with them for your consultations.

Please keep in mind that each firm is unique, and while most follow the general schedules we’ve described below, they may have their own preferred steps or additional forms that they require.

The differences in their presentation styles and meeting logistics should help you identify what to expect if you were to sign with them, so we encourage you to take all of these factors into account as part of your evaluation process.

Across all firms, all of the information and documents you send to the firms as part of the evaluation process are kept strictly confidential. After any number of meetings, you can always decide that you would or would not like to continue with subsequent meetings.

Remote meetings note: In 2020, due to Coronavirus, almost 100% of our consultations and even ongoing client meetings are happening virtually, either over a regular call or video call. In-person meetings can still occur, based on the comfort level of the client and the firm — be sure to ask about this if this is important to you.

Financial Advisory Firms

Recommended number of consultations: 3 meetings, usually about a few days apart each, depending on your schedule and the firm’s availability.

What happens in the first consultation (30 minutes)

Firm introduces themselves, including advisor background, investment philosophies, etc. You provide a high-level introduction  of your personal goals and preferences, overview of your assets, upcoming windfalls or large purchases, etc.

Suggested reading: Average Fees for Financial Advisors

What happens after the first consultation

You send over detailed financial documents for advisor review. This helps the advisor present a high-level for financial plan/investment strategy in the second meeting:

What happens in the second consultation (30 minutes)

Firm demonstrates their typical process: Investment strategy, portfolio construction, risk tolerance, financial planning, and/or a client portal.

What happens in the third consultation (30 minutes)

Deep dive into client assets and financial situations. The advisor outlines a detailed financial and or investment plan.

Deciding to work with the firm

If you decide to become a client of the firm, you will receive an engagement letter that outlines the scope of work and fees, requests for any remaining docs (statements, trusts), and begin the transfer of assets to the advisors. You will receive custodial account opening and transfer links or docs or a Letter of Authorization if the client will stay at the custodian. As part of your onboarding as a new client, your team of advisors will review a personal financial plan and/or investment proposal in detail.

Tax

Recommended number of consultations: 1

Documents you should have ready

Suggested reading: Tax Planning vs. Tax Preparation: What’s the Difference?

What happens in the consultation (30-45 minutes)

The firm determines the client’s short term and long term service needs and goals. Does the client need this year’s tax return filed or does the client need more ongoing tax planning strategies?

Deciding to work with the firm

If you decide to move forward with the firm, you will sign an agreement that outlines scope of work and fees.

For tax filing: CPA will begin the filing work and will schedule time to review before the actual filing deadline.
For tax planning: CPA and client will meet on a regular basis to discuss goals and tax optimization goals.

Trust & Estate

Recommended number of consultations: 1

Documents and information you should have ready

It’s important to have a general discussion with your spouse (if married) and family about who would raise your children if you were unable to do so, your own status as an heir/beneficiary, and which individuals/organizations you would like to leave your assets to upon your passing. You can certainly continue to have conversations with them as you learn more throughout the consultation process about the specific decisions that need to be made for your estate, but it is helpful to be generally aligned before you meet with the firm.

What happens in the consultation

Personal information overview: Your family, your spouse’s family, other heirs/dependents, etc.
Financial information overview: Review of all asset types and amounts
Goals: What are your ideal results for the trust & estate planning process?

Deciding to work with the firm

If you decide to move forward with the firm, you will sign an agreement that outlines scope of work and fees. Then, the attorney will begin drafting the documents. Documents will be signed by the client and notarized by the firm.

Some states require that the trustee of a trust register the trust with the local court. But there are no legal consequences or penalties if you don’t. Most states require that trusts be physically signed documents, and electronic signed trusts are not considered valid.

How to evaluate the firms

Here is a list of questions you should go through that will help you determine whether any of the given firms are a good fit for your needs: Questions for Selecting an Advisory Firm

If you have any questions about what to expect from the specific firms you’re meeting with and how best to compare them, your Concierge is a great resource to provide context and additional information.

One thing we like to highlight is that all of our firms are of extremely high quality. They are rigorously evaluated upfront and monitored on an ongoing basis, and recommended to you specifically based on your profile.

That means that by the time you reach the consultation stage, you can certainly screen for expertise, but your decision will likely come down to more personal factors, such as communication style, client service level, and your assessment of mutual fit — it’s important that you enjoy speaking with your advisory team and feel comfortable building a productive long-term working relationship with them.