How Total Wealth Advisors Differentiate with Estate Planning and Insurance

They deepen relationships and retain assets across generations. Here's how you can do it.

By Jim Sinai

At a recent conference, the speaker asked the audience of advisors, “Who in the room thinks they are smarter or a better investor than the people they are sitting next to?” A few bold people put their hands up, but most did not. Why? Because everyone in the room knows that beating the market consistently over a long period of time comes down to just luck.

While clients would love to receive market-beating advice, no self-respecting advisor would try to win over clients by claiming to be exceptionally lucky. So, if investing and beating the market is not the key to differentiating, delighting and winning new clients, what is?

Research shows when clients retire, they become more reliant on advisors, even if they preferred to be hands-on with their investment decisions up to that point in life. It’s not that they’ve lost interest in managing their investments, but rather, they also care about every other financial decision and need validation they are doing the right thing. As they consider how they’ll navigate their next phase in life, they may need expert guidance on important areas that they have never fully considered before, such as estate planning and insurance strategies.

But according to Spectrum Group, 93% of people want estate planning services from their advisor but only 22% are actually getting that advice. Clients today need an advisor who truly offers comprehensive financial planning that takes into account all aspects of a client’s life, including their investments, estate planning, and insurance needs. This type of advisor is called a Total Wealth Advisor.




Total Wealth Advisors focus on helping clients both reach their financial freedom as well as caring for their families’ total financial needs. In practice, that means thinking beyond just investments, and including expertise around estate planning and insurance. Not only will this work deepen your relationship and help you retain assets across generations, according to Vanguard’s Advisor Alpha white paper, advisors can add value “through relationship-oriented services, rather than by trying to outperform the market.”

Why Estate Planning and Insurance Are Important

Estate planning is the process of creating a plan for the distribution of assets, guardianship of dependents, and healthcare decisions in case of incapacitation. And for wealthier clients, a good estate plan can help minimize taxes and increase benefits to heirs. The traditional model for estate planning has been to refer the client to a  lawyer, often cutting the advisor out of the loop and thus reducing their ability to advise. But thanks to advances in estate planning software, that model is starting to shift. It’s easier than ever for advisors to visualize a client’s estate plan to simplify legal documents into pictures to help the client align on their goals before they engage an expensive attorney. And if clients need to get high-quality estate plans online, those options are becoming easier.

Insurance is another important part of total wealth planning. Life insurance can provide financial security for loved ones in the event of the insured’s death. Disability insurance can provide income replacement if the insured becomes unable to work. And long-term care insurance can help pay for the cost of care if the insured needs assistance with daily living. The advisor’s role is to be an advocate and coach for what the client needs. An insurance broker is going to want to maximize their sale and sell the most coverage, but maybe the client is comfortable with 75% coverage. This offers Total Wealth Advisors another opportunity to build trust with their client by acting on their behalf as a fiduciary and showcasing their value through advocacy.

Why Total Wealth Advisory Works

There are many reasons why Total Wealth Advisors stand out from legacy investment advisors. First, taking a holistic approach allows advisors to provide a more comprehensive service to their clients. When advisors only focus on investments, they are missing out on a significant portion of the client’s financial picture. By understanding all of the client’s assets and liabilities, advisors can better position them to reach their financial goals.

Second, Total Wealth Advisors tend to have stronger relationships with their clients. By doing the work of asking about the client’s family and how they think about passing along their legacy, they are more likely to earn the client’s trust and confidence. Total Wealth Advisors often engage in ongoing monitoring and adjustments to financial plans as circumstances change. This proactive approach can help clients stay on track and adapt to evolving life events. It’s hard for a client to feel seen when talking about investments. But they will always feel seen when their advisor understands their family dynamic. This connection can lead to referrals and repeat business.

Third, adopting the approach of a Total Wealth Advisor can help advisors differentiate themselves from the competition. In today’s market environment, where the market may be volatile or flat for a few years, it is more important than ever for advisors to justify their fees with a more comprehensive service. By offering total wealth advisory services, advisors can demonstrate their expertise and value to potential clients, regardless of macro conditions.

Total wealth advisory is an essential service that financial advisors can offer their clients. By providing a holistic and comprehensive approach to financial planning, advisors can help their clients reach their financial goals and protect their assets. There are lots of resources online such as estate planning checklists that advisors can use to get started with their clients. Advisors have much to gain by using their unique expertise and experience to help clients not just maximize their investments, but also reach financial peace of mind.

About the Author

Jim Sinai is the Chief Marketing Officer at Vanilla. Vanilla is a complete estate planning software platform purpose-built for wealth managers and estate strategists. Vanilla helps advisors and their clients organize and visualize their existing plan, create powerful legacy-building strategies, and create documents on demand.

As a father to three boys, Jim is passionate about helping every parent ensure they have a strong estate plan. At Vanilla, he leads marketing where he is responsible for evangelizing why every wealth manager needs to do ongoing estate planning. He lives in California with his wife and three boys.

About Vanilla

Vanilla is a leading provider of estate planning software for advisors. Vanilla transforms traditional estate planning into a modern, comprehensive estate advisory experience. Its platform brings together innovative technology, design, and industry-leading expertise. By reimagining the outdated, complex legacy estate planning process, Vanilla allows advisors to deliver differentiated advice, foster meaningful customer interaction, and provide a more expansive total wealth advisory offering so they can win new business, increase retention, and grow assets under management over time.

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