Estate Planning: A Bridge to the Next Generation with Chris Hall

Chris Hall
VP of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Estate Guru
November 8, 2023

Chris Hall, VP of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Estate Guru, believes estate planning can serve as a powerful bridge to establish connections and ensure the continuity of financial advisory relationships within families.

Today, we highlight a parallel between the past and the present, where financial advisors initially hesitated to delve into tax matters because they weren’t accountants, just as they are now hesitant to venture into estate planning due to the misconception that they must be lawyers.  

The financial advisory industry has been traditionally slow to embrace change. However, firms are gradually realizing the necessity of offering estate planning services to their clients. This shift reflects a growing recognition of the untapped potential within the topic.

Our guest, Chris Hall, Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Estate Guru, believes estate planning can serve as a powerful bridge to establish connections and ensure the continuity of financial advisory relationships within families. What’s more, with Estate Guru’s software, financial advisors can confidently rely on legal expertise throughout the process.

Join us as we explore building enduring relationships with the next generation of clients and how advisors can differentiate themselves in the business.  

In this episode, you’ll gain valuable insights into:

  • Building relationships with the next gen
  • Changing dynamics in financial advisory
  • Addressing the estate planning gap in financial advisors’ practices
  • Navigating the beneficiary predicament and the great wealth transfer
  • And more!  

Connect with Lara Galloway

Connect with Chris Hall

About our Guest

Chris Hall heads up strategic partnerships and business development for this industry leading cloud based legal solution. In his current role with the team at Estate Guru, he is on a mission to provide access to quality legal assistance for the masses. The goal is to leverage today’s powerful technology in combination with the still very important human element.  

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, SVP of Channel Management at White Glove. Lara provides advisors with an opportunity to hear from some of the best minds in the business. Follow along to learn quick tips to help you grow your business from gaining new leads, to keeping current clients engaged and everything in between.

Now onto the show.  

Bill Tucker: Welcome to the FAST Podcast with your host, Lara Galloway.

Lara, good to be with you again.  

Lara Galloway: I'm so excited to see you again and be here with you as well. And I've got a great guest for the FAST Podcast today. With me is one of our resource partners and resource partners are really important to us at White Glove because they help our clients do what they do better, where White Glove does a great job getting them in front of qualified prospects and leads at the events that webinars or seminars.

When you get all these leads, then you need to have an [00:01:00] amazing practice and a lot of support in helping convert these leads and helping manage their account and manage those relationships and develop all of the stuff that you have to do with those families and the legacies that they have.

And the legacy piece is so important. White Glove is all in on this idea of estate planning and helping our advisors really get that their role in estate planning is being a strategist and that the documents are something that we're going to get support from the estate planning attorneys and such in their network.

And if they don't have a network, we have a cool solution. So that brings me to today and why I'm so excited to talk to my guest, Chris Hall. Chris is the heads up the strategic partners and business development for Estate Guru, which is an industry leading cloud based legal solution. And he's on a mission to provide access to quality legal assistance for the masses.

before becoming a principal at estate [00:02:00] guru, he worked in the real estate industry and as a financial advisor, building a successful practice, which he ultimately sold. And following the sale of his final practice, he spent nearly 10 years trading futures and managing a real estate partnership.

So please join me in welcoming Chris Hall from Estate Guru to the FAST Podcast.  

Hey, Chris.  

Chris Hall: Hey, Lara, how are you doing?

Lara Galloway: Doing great, doing great, having fun with technology today, as you know, we had a crazy start to this podcast and so grateful that we have our supportive teams to help us with this technology.

Chris Hall: For sure.

Bill had to actually show me what an on off button was on my microphone. That's how tech challenged I can be sometimes, but it's awesome to be here. We're really excited to be one of the partners with White Glove. We love to hear things like we're all in on the estate planning portion. It really is an integral piece of any good financial plan.

So, we're just excited to be [00:03:00] here and I'm interested to see where our conversation goes and share more about a Estate Guru today.  

Lara Galloway: Well, I appreciate that. And I think it makes a lot of sense to talk to you, Chris, because you've got the background as a financial advisor, what our clients are doing, trying to manage all of these assets to help families form an amazing legacy to avoid paying Uncle Sam all these crazy taxes and to minimize some of the challenges that come up.

And I'm guessing all of that led you to Estate Guru. And I just kind of love to hear that origin story. Like why did you get into this? What was your reasoning for it?  

Chris Hall: Sure. Yeah, Estate Guru itself has a very long history of over 33 years in the business.

Obviously not online. The internet wasn't around back then, but Estate Guru was founded originally as a company called Legacy Legal. It was founded in San Diego by a father and son [00:04:00] financial advisor team. And I find it kind of interesting that 34 years ago, financial advisors had some of the exact same challenges around legal documents for their clients as they do today.

That's how slow the industry has been to change. And so this father and son, Scott and Jerry decided, Hey, we're going to take matters in our own hands. And we're going to figure out a process that gives the financial professional more control, allows them to quarterback the process, but keep a lawyer in the process.

A lot of the solutions we see today are removing the attorney for the most part. Of course, a lawyer writes the basic contract or the template, right? But access to the lawyer is not very easy or there's extra charges. So these guys, when they started it all said, how can we include the lawyer? So they figured out a way to do that.

About four years into their [00:05:00] business, I became a financial advisor down in Southern California in San Diego area. And I was just like them looking for a solution. And I ran into this father and son team and they taught me so much about the process that they had created. And I was super thankful to find them because I was just a 29, 30-year-old kid.

I knew nothing. And they said, hey just do estate planning and the rest will follow. And so anyway, I became an advisor. I did about 250 estate plans with my own clients through this company. So, I was actually a customer of this company before I became a principal and I became friends with the founders and about seven years ago when we were ready to launch or getting ready to launch the software, the original founder, the son came to me and said, Hey, Chris, we're going to do this really cool thing.

We're going to actually take advantage of technology. You know, both sides of the thing would you like [00:06:00] to be a partner? And so here we are, and it's just funny how the world goes, but here we are and growing like crazy, there's a real hunger, I think finally the industry has figured out that this is a really important addition to what financial advisors do.

Lara Galloway: Well, that's a really good point because you're saying back in the day when you were 29 and just getting started and whatever. You are already incorporating estate planning into your practice. And I mean, was that common for other advisors like you? Because I got to tell you, Chris, in my experience at White gGlove, talking to a lot of advisors there, sometimes there's a lot of reticence.

They don't want to delve in that area. They don't feel competent. They don't feel comfortable for a lot of reasons. So can you just talk to me a little bit about your experience as a financial advisor and what made you comfortable incorporating that into your practice?  

Chris Hall: I think back then, honestly, a lot of the comfort was I was independent.

I was an independent insurance agent when I started and I eventually got my [00:07:00] 65, 66, and 7. But to your point, I think you're spot on. Most advisors didn't go down that road. Most broker dealers and if there was an RIA back then, they didn't want to touch legal issues. We've seen that change completely.

And I think also, I'd love to hear your take on this, but I think not only are they the advisor hesitant to go down this path, I think many of them have sort of thrown their arms up and given up because they tell their clients they need these documents probably every year. I can't tell you how many stories I hear about advisors say, I tell my clients to do it every year and I give them, you know, a referral to a lawyer, but the client ultimately never gets it done.

So, I think a lot of advisors don't want to touch legal, but they've also sort of given up and just said, look, I did my job. I told them they need it. And then the unfortunate part of that is now you've put together this [00:08:00] plan for your client. Maybe they've achieved their goals and getting to the point where they're not worried about their retirement, but now they've got something to pass on to their kids or grandkids.

But if they don't have these documents in place, that plan blows up the minute someone passes. So, there's always been this hesitation. I think I went off track there a little bit, but the idea is it's changing and there's tools available. And from the top down firms are now saying, Hey, we need to offer estate planning to our clients.

Lara Galloway: That's different than it's ever been. Well, I want to talk about two things. Number one, I want to talk about sort of, the mass wealthy. And then number two, I want to talk about the high net worth. So, the mass wealthy, you're saying advisors maybe have been struggling. Like you need to get these docs.

You need to get these docs. Because every man needs these docs. So, what are those docs that everybody needs to have in place that, you know, if you're [00:09:00] an advisor and you're a trusted advisor, and you're talking to people about things that impact their finances and their financial future. What are those docs that everybody should be having that are a part of an estate plan?

Chris Hall: The absolute is a financial power of attorney, at minimum, if we're going to talk about finances, right? A lot of people understand if they stop and think, but don't always at the top-level think that, Hey, powers of attorney protect me while I'm alive. Maybe I'm temporarily incapacitated. So you need the financial power of attorney and that healthcare power of attorney.

Those are big. You've got to have those. Yeah. Everything else is about your legacy. Now you're gone. Right? So if you really care about what's going to happen to your family after, then you need the will or the trust that's going to ensure that your wishes are carried out in a timely manner and that you're not going to be putting your family through the courts and unnecessary expense, etc.

Lara Galloway: Yeah. Okay. And [00:10:00] that's just thinking about the fact that your work as, or for a lot of our people listening to the podcast, they're doing the work of the financial advisor where they're funding trusts, they're doing designations of beneficiaries. They're doing step up cost basis. They're doing tax advantaged accounts to think about how that's going to allow the people that they're dealing with as their clients to pass things down to their heirs.

With, you know, maximum upside, minimal downside. Right. So, can you talk to me a little bit about how, like if someone is not as comfortable doing estate planning, what would your pitch to them be about why they should do it given, you know, you're talking about some pretty basic documents and it doesn't sound super exciting, but what's the upside for an advisor that is going to embrace doing this kind of planning with their clients?

Chris Hall: That's a great question, and we see a few different versions of that [00:11:00] advisor who uses estate planning. First off, the holistic advisor says, look, I'm looking out for the best interests of my clients, and I believe that this is an integral part of any planning we do. And so that advisor is really good at taking the hand of their client and making sure they get this done just because it's an important piece.  

Then we've got a lot of advisors, and this is why we were excited about your EP in a box, is we've got a lot of advisors who say, wow, what a phenomenal way to build a relationship with a new prospect.

And talk about something other than moving their money or how much return I can make, on your money. Now you have a new subject and it's something frankly that most people have been thinking about doing for a long time and nobody's ever made it easy. So, you've got the folks that are using this as a prospecting tool and we can talk more about that [00:12:00] later.

That's certainly a big one. We see an awful lot of that. Those are probably the two biggest reasons that advisors are doing it. Well, another one that has started to show up in the last year or so, and why at Estate Guru we're having a lot of conversations with large firms is that we're talking about this wealth transfer that's upon us right now, this generational wealth transfer.

Lara Galloway: And one of the things I think a lot of advisors don't think enough about is a really crummy statistic that's out there, and that is, 85% to 90% of beneficiaries fire their parents financial advisor. So, if you don't have a relationship with the next generation, there's a very high likelihood that money is going out the door right about the time you thought you were going to put it on cruise control and have all this AUM.

You may see a lot of money exiting your practice unless you've done a good job of nurturing those relationships and being involved in the estate planning [00:13:00] work is a perfect bridge to building relationships with the next generation. I'm so glad you said that because I feel like if I don't say great wealth transfer in every podcast and talk about it, then I'm just doing it wrong.

But, you know, that's really such a good motivation to advisors who are thinking about this kind of stuff, but not totally convinced they need to get in on it. But that statistic is absolutely true. And the people that you've got to connect with in that next gen are the women. And the children, both of whom like more contact, like to talk about values, like a lot of this is pretty well known as far as a difference between dealing with just the husband or the male in the relationship versus dealing with the spouse, the wife and the children.

It's like it's just a different way of putting it. And I love talking about this. I'm really passionate about this topic and I think it's so [00:14:00] powerful for advisors who embrace it. But the piece that you just said is, Oh, and by the way, that great wealth transfer is going to take that money out the door right about the time you were going to approach retirement, Mr.

Hermes. Yeah. What's that huge sucking sound. It's your AUM leaving. Right. We don't want that to happen. And so my line to hopefully convince, because we work with thousands of independent advisors or small offices. And my hope, my tactic for convincing them of this is that these large firms are all coming to us right now and that's one of their top reasons they are integrating estate planning into what they do.

We've all seen the trend. It's, you've got to add tax. And you've got to add estate planning. It's kind of the three legs of the stool, right? Well, it's funny. And we say at White Glove all the time that when we first started out, we were called Social Security University. And that's because the only [00:15:00] workshops we did, Chris, were social security workshops.

That's how our Founders got started in this industry. And they built their whole business on workshops. Like this is where they grew their entire business, their whole book of business. So, they started with social security and then they started realizing that there was an opportunity to tap into this, the taxes in retirement side of things.

So, they created a topic for a workshop called taxes in retirement, which now is used everywhere. And you think it's just ubiquitous. It must just have always been there. No, it didn't. They created it. And when they first started doing it, because they started realizing the importance of tax planning, adding that leg of the stool, they found so many advisors, their peers were like, Oh God, no, I'm not an accountant.

I can't do tax planning. Are you kidding me? No way. I'm not touching that. So exactly the same talk track that is now being used of why they can't do estate planning because it's legal and they don't want to touch that. But [00:16:00] probably 75% of our workshops these days are taxes and retirement because they finally saw.

That adding tax planning into a retirement planning and a wealth management conversation was genius, right? So, anyway, you and I, we were preaching to the choir back and forth. We agree high five. Now, tell me a little bit about how Estate Guru is different from some of the other solutions out there for advisors who do want to start adding estate planning into their practice.

Chris Hall: Perfect, and I know you knew this, but that was the perfect timing for your question, because what you just mentioned is about the advisors hesitating to get into taxes because they're not an accountant, and that they hesitate to get into this because they're not a lawyer.  

We built a Estate Guru, like I said at the beginning when I talked about the history, with the idea of always keeping a lawyer in the process. The reason we did that is not just because we think there ought to be a lawyer there, but we're all former financial advisors.

And one of the first things an advisor says to me when he's looking into our solution Well, how can I do this if I'm not a lawyer? Why am I not going to get accused of the unauthorized practice of law? Or what if there's problems someday? I agree with every one of those questions. It should be very good questions.

Yeah. I mean, you don't want to blow up your entire practice over this. So, what we did was we built an algorithm based [00:18:00] software. It's the only one on the market that does this is that allows a lawyer to practice law through our software. But another way of putting that is it's the algorithms are approved by the lawyer.

The lawyer knows what questions are being asked. And if the client answers a question in a certain way, what the follow up question is, it's a logic tree, right? And because we've spent the time to build that, you might think of TurboTax for estate planning. Sure. It allows an advisor to go through the questionnaire with the client, but really what's happening is the lawyer's posing the questions through our software.

The advisor's simply guiding their client through that. What we can do using that type of system is we can program the software state by state and that way you can put your client's information in based on the answers a lawyer in that state can pop up on [00:19:00] screen and say, Hey, Mr. And Mrs. Johnson, thanks for all the information.

Based on your answers, here's what I recommend for you. So now you actually have a lawyer recommending what documents the folks need. That protects the advisor from ever being accused of practicing law because a lawyer actually made the recommendation that's actually recorded in our software. And the client signs off on it.

And then ultimately the second part of the interview the estate guru software is all the questions an attorney would ask a client to customize documents for them. So ultimately what you end up with is a lawyer making the recommendations, a lawyer creating the documents, and a lawyer's name on the documents, just as if you went down the street to the local attorney.

Now, someday when that estate is being settled, and there's some bickering going on, or some things happening. That advisor sure as heck doesn't want to get involved in and that attorney is going to step in to defend their [00:20:00] documents and the advisor is much less likely to get dragged into those things because there's a lawyer involved in every deal.

Lara Galloway: There's actually a lawyer client relationship. That's amazing. So would you say, because you were talking about algorithms and stuff, and of course, that's what makes things scalable, right? It can't take an attorney, you know, 24 hours to review each family's documents. There are some standard, like you said, a logic tree.

So, for all of the clients that you have this Estate Guru, what percentage are just like in a simple estate plan that, kind of is easy to, manage as an advisor and say, yep, let's get your standard documents in place. You're going to be all set with these, this base group of documents versus which ones do require more help or are more complex.

And is a lawyer able to join in and be a part of those?

Chris Hall: Yeah so it's [00:21:00] over 95%, maybe 97% or so of the clients that start a plan in our practice are able or in our software are able to complete it without having any issues of a higher level of complexity. One of the things I didn't mention a minute ago in the process that I think is extremely important is we have a process.

We call it attorney link or an attorney trigger system where programmed into the software are some questions that the lawyer will put in that are designed to vet out or find more complex situations. So, in the case where a client indicates that maybe there's a prenuptial agreement or things that might indicate more complexity, we're going to connect that client live to an attorney at that point.

No additional charge. They'll have a phone call. They'll have a discussion and they'll make sure that the documents we can create in the software will indeed solve their issue or take care of what they want. Most of [00:22:00] the time it does. Sometimes it doesn't and it's on those occasions. It's maybe two percent of the time.

In those cases, then the lawyers there in the background can step in and say, here's what you need. Based on what you're telling me, here's what it'll cost. Would you like me to do the work? If the client says, yeah, that sounds fantastic. Do the work. That attorney will do it for them. If the client says, Hey, thanks for the heads up, but I just feel better going to the lawyer here in my town and go down to the street and look at them eyeball to eyeball.

That's okay. They'll owe us nothing at that point. We haven't collected any money. They're free to go wherever they want. The important thing is that we've identified that situation and gotten them the help that they want or need.

Lara Galloway: I'm really glad you explained that because I think for some of the advisors listening and those who are doing some of our EP in a box workshops or any other kind of estate planning workshops.

If you're hearing this, what I just heard from Chris is [00:23:00] 98% of the time, these are pretty standardized documents and not requiring a big development of an additional relationship with another person in this person's trusted advisor group. Right? So they're getting documents. You have to have the legal documents.

You've got to follow the rules. You, as an advisor, don't have to know all those rules, but you do have to comply with them. And your client does, and there are all these, financial and tax vehicles and products that require these legal structures in place, but 98% of them are pretty standard. So again, if you're feeling that nervousness about delving into the legal world, 98% of the time, it sounds like there's a pretty standard process that is easily managed by the advisor with Estate Guru.

And yet you guys are available if they need to get into something a bit more complex and there's an option to go with the Estate Guru attorney or allow the client to go wherever they feel comfortable. [00:24:00]  

Chris Hall: Exactly. Exactly. And every advisor who works with this gets a dedicated account manager.

We onboard and train them in the software. It's a simple guided software. After you've seen it once or twice, most advisors, they're like, Oh, this is easy. What they end up leaning on us for is scenarios where they'll reach out to their account manager and say, Hey, I've got a client that's got a special needs child and this going on and that going on.

Can we accomplish what we want to accomplish in the Estate Guru platform? That's what we're here for. That's part of the subscription they pay. It's not an expensive subscription. We can talk about it if you'd like, but that's part of what they pay for is that support. We're known in the industry for having great advisors support.

Again, I think because we come from that space, we understand we're an extension of that advisor's practice essentially.  

Lara Galloway: I love that. So, Chris, we're going to run out of time here pretty quickly, but I would love for you to just share if people [00:25:00] want to find pricing, find out information, what's the best place for them to do that.

Chris Hall: Well, if you're not already reaching out to White Glove and learning about EP in a box, which you should, because I come from, I didn't talk about this, but I built my practice leading with estate planning, and it is a phenomenal prospecting tool. So, talk to White Glove, number one, if you want. But if you want to talk to a Estate Guru, you can check us out at estateguru.com.

You can shoot me an email at Chris@estateguru.com and you can schedule a demo from the website, whatever you need, you can do from there. But we'd love to hear from you.  

Lara Galloway: I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And before I let you go, I always ask everybody at the end of the podcast final question, and it's about success.

And I hear it's amazing to hear over the years, what you guys have been able to create with Estate Guru. It's amazing to hear what you've done with your practice and your various other business and professional [00:26:00] explorations, but I'd love to hear from you what your definition of success is.

Chris Hall: Well, from the Estate Guru perspective, we set out on a mission, I think, and I came in part way to be honest, right? I'm being a customer 1st, but our mission has been to flip the numbers is well, if we were successful, we'd flip the numbers and the numbers I'm talking about are right now, 65% to 70% of the people out there that should have a estate planning documents in place don't and by doing what we're doing and making it affordable, by the way, advisors as a subscriber, you can do powers of attorney for anybody, anytime for free.

So, I want to flip those numbers. I'd rather see 30% of the people not have their documents than 70%. And I think if we could do that, or at least be a big part of that, we'd be successful.  

Lara Galloway: That's fantastic. And man, as you mentioned, those powers of [00:27:00] attorneys are so basic and so simple, but I can't believe 70% of the people who need them don't have them.

So that's an amazing goal. I love it. Chris, you've been fabulous to talk to today. I really appreciate you being my guest here on the FAST Podcast. We'll do it again soon.  

Chris Hall: Awesome. It was great being with you. Thanks, Lara.  

Bill Tucker: Yeah. Thank you, Chris. Really appreciate it. I found what you had to say extraordinarily interesting.

And Lara, he kindly referenced White Glove and maybe if you could extend your contact information for folks who want to get all of you who are interested in the EP box and any other products you might have to offer.  

Lara Galloway: Yeah, we love our collaboration with you guys at Estate Guru and EP or estate planning in a box is a great solution to help you get a workshop organized for estate planning and build right into that subscription service with estate planning so you can take all the leads you get at the workshop.

Plug them straight in and start working on them and getting those free powers of attorney or getting those [00:28:00] more complex estate plans done. But yeah, you can find out everything about us at whiteglove.com. You're welcome to reach me at info@whiteglove.com. We're always checking in and making sure that we get good answers to you guys when you reach out there and we would love to have more listeners to the podcast too.  

So check us out on the podcast and tell people about that as well, because this is how we're bringing more information out to advisors who are trying to learn how to do the best practice they can.  

Bill Tucker: And we want to extend a thank you for those of you who are listening to the FAST Podcast with Lara Galloway.

If you haven't subscribed, hit the subscription button below. That way you won't miss a single episode. You'll be notified and it will be delivered to your listening device. And as Lara referenced, we humbly ask that you share this podcast. Rate it. Share it. Tell other people about it. And that actually helps others find the show.

Again, thanks for [00:29:00] listening today. And for everyone at White Glove, this is Bill Tucker reminding you to live your best day every day. Until next time.

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, your go to source designed to help you grow your business.

Have questions about the topics covered during the show, visit our website at www.whiteglove.com or email us at info@whiteglove.com.

Don't forget to click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guests and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of White Glove.

The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice. Always seek the advice of your financial advisor or other qualified financial services provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning.

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