Wealth management professionals from around the country gathered Oct. 17 in New York City for theTrusts & Estates

The daylong conference at the Marriott Eastside Hotel included:
—The guru of estate planning, Roy M. Adams of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal —Charitable giving expert Conrad Teitell of Cummings & Lockwood —Renowned sales and marketing coach Ted R. Ridlehuber, president and CEO of Cannon Financial Institute —Trust drafting wizard Jonathan Blattmachr of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy —The preeminent retirement benefits planning specialist Natalie Choate of Bingham McCutchen.

Adams kicked off the event with a witty and insightful lecture on the latest developments in estate planning, paying special attention to recent cases and rulings regarding estate taxes, marital deductions, and family limited partnerships. Expanding on his recent column in Trusts & Estates, Adams warned the lawyers, planners and other wealth advisors that "we must inform clients of the degree of risk involved" when employing various strategies. Advisors who don’t adequately lay out the risks of various strategies, Adams said, could risk legal action by clients.

Teitell gave a detailed account of the types of charitable trusts available today. Teitell, a noted showman, used recorded music, props and a grand finale video clip in which a woman sang of advisors’ plight when establishing CRTs, set to the tune of "Don’t Cry For Me Argentina."

Ridlehuber gave a rousing address worthy of a Big Ten college football coach, urging investment counselors and other wealth management advisors to go back out there and talk to clients. With the market faltering and portfolios languishing, one in four clients is interested in talking to another advisor, he said. In this environment, he stressed, it no longer works to tell clients to be patient; that is the surest way to lose them. Instead, he advised, schedule meetings with the most performance-sensitive clients to learn about their current situations, feelings and goals. Readjust their asset allocation where appropriate. You’re more likely to lose a client by doing nothing, he warned, than by doing something. A complete list of his recommendations appears in the November issue of Trusts & Estates.

Blattmachr, who paced the hall as he conducted a law school-like lecture, focused on the valuation and taxation issues that arise in family limited partnerships and limited liability companies. He discussed various techniques to ensure that clients get proper valuation discounts and described how to create partnerships that achieve diversification and, therefore, are not subject to gift tax upon formation. He went on to discuss recent IRS rulings that could influence how FLPs and LLPs should be formed.

Natalie Choate wrapped up the conference with a startlingly clear account of the changes in the minimum distribution rules, including a discussion of the latest rule changes, issued in early October. Choate said the new rules provide much greater flexibility for wealth advisors because clients can now change how they approach minimum distributions from retirement accounts. The overall thrust of the new rules is to postpone significant distribution of assets to a client’s 80s. Finally, Choate declared that the CARE (Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act of 2002) bill that was proposed in the last session of Congress will be "a bonanza" for the planning industry. The legislation, if approved, would make it possible to pass IRA and 401(k) assets to a charitable trust.