Finding good professionals


Dryer sheet aficionado
Jul 9, 2007
Southern WI - Northern IL Border
We will be coming into a large chunk of money all at once. We are looking for ideas about what kind of professionals will we need to see to help set us up financially, legally, etc.

There seems to be so many things to take into consideration - wills, trusts, life insurance, investments, etc.

Anyone had any good experience with a firm or individual who can competently walk us through the whole process and who we can trust?

We are in Wisconsin if that matters.


There are several real financial advisors and a lawyer or two on this forum that will hopefully give you a professionally based opinion. Before they chime in I'll give you my input based on discussions with an attorney and CPA in Texas.

I don't think Wisconsin is as tax happy as California so I'll start off about being careful not to get slammed by some trust happy lawyer. If you are talking about an amount less than $2MM you will be more than covered with a decent will/POA/living will combo.

Above $10MM you will definitely need some higher power setup that means you need to find some local recommendations and interview the leading candidates. If you don't run in the circle of people that know such people, you are probably best getting a list of board certified estate lawyers for your area.

The $2-10MM gap comes down to how comfortable you are with a do it yourself approach. There are lots of books on the subject so start reading. No matter how much you have, go into the lawyers office knowing something.

Be very careful around insurance agents and annuity salespeople. Be careful around any financial types. The minute you touch the money you will be everyone's best friend and they will be happy to take care of your investment problem. The answer here is to read the investment books and articles recommended here (do a search).

Realize that most large pensions and endowments are heavily invested in the market indexes and plain old boring bonds. What works best for a $50,000 portfolio works best for $50MM. When people get fancy is when people get taken.

When coming into a windfall, take a deep breath and move very, very slowly.
Good luck! You will need the ability to dump your "professional" at the first hint of imbecility. So far, every person that has been recommended to me and that I have interviewed has turned out to have flaws. To save myself from them, I needed to learn quite a bit on my own.

But hey, if my investments generate more income for me than my 40-hour a week job that I spent 8 years in college and graduate school to prepare for, then maybe I can spend a few weeks or months learning what I need to know in order to use help without getting ripped off.

Here is an online book with a chapter on investment advisors: Investment Guide
Given the relatively low estate tax exemption in Wisconsin, a lawyer may want you to do trusts to enable both spouses to take advantage of their own estate tax exemption. Talk to an estate planner who concentrates in that area of law. Get recommendations from those in the know (local business people, big firm accountants, brokers. . . )

As far as investments, this forum is a great resource and many here can make book recommendations.

I have really good connections to these kinds of professionals through my job; I know exactly who I would hire if (god forbide!) I came into a fortune. My company specializes in clients with mega-bucks. I'm in Northern California and would keep in mind that inheritances are separate property here and I believe that is also true in Wisconsin.
I would re-iterate the warning about being too trusting. Everybody wants your money... Aside from the problems of outright theft and fraud, there is the grey areas like annities and other products with high commissions. The best advice is to educate yourself as much as possible. You would probably be a fool to turn over all your money to the first swinging Richard who rings your bell. But you'd be equally foolish if you tried to do everything your self.
I'm sure you're talking with the trust's custodian's/investment team, but I would do the following:

1)Seek qualified estate attorney help from an outside referral.

2)Find a good CPA to do a pro-forma of how and if this windfall will affect your taxes for 2007 and beyond.

3)Find out when the trust was last updated. If it has not been amended within the past 5 years, you need to know that. Wisconsin law changed in 2002, when they decided NOT to automatically follow the federal guidelines on how much money can be inherited without estate taxes being applied. Wisconsin's state limits are the "old" $675,000. If the trust was not updated after 2002, it is possible you are facing a larger tax liability than you expect. Consult a tax professional.

If I think of more things I will post them here. As I have learned firsthand, there is a HUGE difference in how states handle estate taxes. For instance, in Nebraska, EVERYONE pays a flat 1% estate tax on inherited estates............
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