WealthCounsel’s 15th Anniversary Video
|Established in 1997, WealthCounsel celebrated its 15th Anniversary in 2012. We’d like to thank the thousands of attorney members in all 50 states who helped make WealthCounsel what it is today, and who are committed to “Practice Excellence.” Enjoy this video that shares our story.|
The nine original partners, William A. Conway, W. Edward Dean, Stan Miller, Peter J. Parenti, Thomas J. Ray, Jr., Merek Rubin, Roberta J. Trudeau, Carl Waldman and Jeffrey Zabner came together as friends and colleagues and started the initial partnership The Jackson Group - with articles of incorporation filed in the State of Arkansas. Their initial purpose was to collaborate on large estates of $25 million and up, with each attorney providing their area of expertise both in legal-technical knowledge and legal documents they had drafted.
The partners formed the National Study Group – an educational forum for advanced practitioners to learn from leading experts in various areas of trusts and estates law. Eventually, the group added additional CLE courses taught by the principals of The Jackson Group. This expanded their initial audience of 50 National Study Group members to several hundred attorney colleagues.
WealthCounsel used the Wealth Enhancement Strategies Model to frame and guide the estate planning process.
The Model provided the critical objectives against which clients measured their goals and advisors when having their affairs properly planned. It was heralded by clients, scholars and practitioners, and serves as the foundation for all of Wealth Counsel's Wealth Enhancement Strategies design efforts.
The year 2000 marked a critical transition period for The Jackson Group when it changed its focus and name to WealthCounsel, LLC.
Estate planning attorneys who were part of the National Study Group asked the founders to create a document assembly system that would serve their needs. The principals of WealthCounsel recognized a need within their own practices for a comprehensive automated drafting system that was constantly updated to reflect changes in the law that also included advanced planning strategies.
Lewis W. Dymond, an attorney who had attended WealthCounsel events, urged the company to create such a system. There was no such drafting software on the market at the time so, with Lew’s help as a HotDocs expert, the first version of WealthDocs was created and the group officially changed its name to WealthCounsel. Robbie Trudeau came up with the name WealthCounsel to represent the fact that the company “helped create wealth for our members’ practices while also helping them to manage and preserve the wealth of their clients as professional counsel.” At this time, a designer was hired to come up with a logo rendering of Mount Hood which represented the origin of key founders and the location of the original and official corporate office in Portland Oregon.
WealthCounsel shipped the first release of our Family Limited Partnership Practice System in December 2000. This six-volume practice system included partnership agreements and ancillary documents programmed in HotDocs, a reference volume, implementation checklists, a practice development volume containing client binder inserts, handouts, practice-building presentation materials, and our two-day professional advisors course.
The following document modules were released under The WealthCounsel Practice Systems 4.0
The Living Trust Practice System (Released 4/01)
The Irrevocable Trust Practice System (released 9/01)
The Will Practice System (Released 11/01)
The following document modules were released under The WealthCounsel Practice Systems 5.0
The Charitable Practice System
The Split-Interest Practice System (Winter 2001/2002)
Standalone Special Needs Trusts System (released 8/02)
WealthDocs™ Version 6 was a substantial upgrade to make WealthDocs compatible with the release of HotDocs® 6. Version 6 superseded all earlier versions.
Version 6 also included the release of the Intervivos Charitable Lead Trust templates and templates for the creation of Private Charitable Foundations in both a corporate and trust format.
In the early days of WealthCounsel, many of the National Study Group participants were wealth planning professionals who were also interested in an organization like WealthCounsel that would benefit their needs. Other professionals, in working with WealthCounsel attorneys, also sought the collegiality and sense of community offered by WealthCounsel.
Over the years, WealthCounsel had introduced various financial planners and estate and insurance professionals to each other for possible collaborative work. Though it was clear that clients and advisors benefit from multiple and cooperative viewpoints, those introductions resulted in relatively few successful (i.e., profitable) ongoing relationships.
In response to this need in the marketplace, the WealthCounsel principals created The Advisors Forum in April of 2006.
The Advisors Forum was launched with two primary goals:
- To create a system that generates consistent business for wealth planning professionals; and
- To address the interdisciplinary marketing and training needs of all wealth planning professions.
To meet these goals, The Advisors Forum created a series of tools and training designed to help wealth planning professionals market themselves to other professionals and clients with strategies that will allow them to provide more comprehensive client services, while generating additional revenue for all team members. Almost immediately, these tools and training helped members take their clients and themselves to a higher level of success.
The Wealth Advisors Institute, founded in 2004 and started by individuals in the financial services industry, approached The Advisors Forum with interest in merging organizations. Through this merger The Advisors Forum acquired a group of 300 financial advisors who had parallel goals of helping professionals work together more collaboratively.
WealthCounsel, LLC partnered with four of the nation’s most prominent elder law attorneys to develop a premier document drafting system and other critical resources for attorneys specializing in elder law and special needs planning. Elder law attorneys Michael J. Amoruso, Esq., Howard S. Krooks, J.D., CELA, Louis W. Pierro, Esq., Vincent J. Russo, J.D., LLM, CELA, CAP, became the principals of the newly-formed ElderCounsel, LLC, a sister company to WealthCounsel.
"This is an important strategic decision that will significantly enhance our mutual objectives to provide elder law and estate planning attorneys with critical resources to competently serve the needs of the nation’s aging population," said Vincent Russo.
ElderCounsel’s resources prepared attorneys to serve the needs of this growing demographic group by providing state-of-the-art software to readily draft quality legal documents, such as advance directives, personal care contracts, sole benefit trusts, income only trusts, promissory notes and private annuity contracts. ElderCounsel’s educational programs and collaborative forum of elder law professionals enabled these attorneys to address most issues that impact the elder law and special needs planning arenas, including long-term care financing, asset preservation, Medicaid, Social Security, and other public benefits programs.
Along with the new partnership, in the summer of 2007, WealthCounsel gave its logo a face lift and revised its tagline to reflect the status that it had achieved in the industry. As the creator of the WealthDocx estate planning software system and the provider of docucentric education, WealthCounsel's brand began to gain substantial traction throughout all 50 states.
In August 2009, WealthCounsel rebranded its drafting system with a slight change in spelling (from WealthDocs to WealthDocx) with the release of WealthDocx 7, the next generation of its estate planning software system. This new version of WealthDocx® improves the drafting experience through a streamlined software interface and integrated web-based navigational functionality. Unlike most other drafting systems on the market today, WealthDocx 7 includes a state-of-the-art help system referred to as “WealthCounsel Dynamic Intelligence” that educates the user about the underlying issues one should consider when answering questions during the client interview. Thus, in addition to increasing efficiency and confidence, WealthDocx actually enhances the drafter’s legal competency.
The key to WealthCounsel's success has been a willingness to listen and respond to our member customers.
While nine of the partners are practicing estate planning attorneys who are busy managing their own firms, they take the time to draw from their collective business experience to provide leadership in the development of WealthCounsel's products and services. They also recognize the importance of leveraging the knowledge and expertise of thousands of member attorneys throughout the country, versus other vendors in the marketplace who rely on one individual or a small team of executives.
Over the years, we’ve watched many members grow and blossom from new attorneys or attorneys transitioning from other law specialties to managing successful law firms ranging in size from solo to dozens of attorneys and staff. They’ve succeeded by using the resources that we’ve built together in continuing legal education, document drafting and other software, marketing and practice management collaboration. We’ve also felt blessed to help many established estate planning attorneys refocus their philosophy and practice from transactional, hourly billed work to client-centered planning. That simply means helping families protect and build their assets while maintaining healthy and happy interpersonal relationships. By focusing on clients, we also help them pass on a legacy of their values and wealth to future generations. We have found this to be the true goal of clients – with saving taxes and fees merely a potential bonus after the real goals are obtained. We are grateful and rewarded every day in our work by knowing that we’ve helped probably hundreds of thousands of families and individuals protect everything they care most about.
We couldn’t possibly ask for more than having built a successful business that employs 40 staff plus 10 partners, serves thousands of practitioners to succeed in their work and helps hundreds of thousands of people do the right thing for their families.