Building a Team for Your Key Client When There Is a Disruptive Change in Income and Financial Status

Wham – your client suddenly comes into money. He is an athlete or entertainer who has just been discovered and his income is about to inheritance, bankruptcytake a quantum leap forward. He just won the lottery. His aunt died and left him a significant inheritance. A public company has just become interested in his “decades-old” start-up and makes him a substantial cash offer.

Wham – your client suddenly loses a great deal of money. He gets the pink slip. He owns a small business and his major vendor suddenly goes bankrupt leaving him with a cash shortage, tremendous bills, and nothing in the pipeline. He thinks he is all set financially and watches the news – the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme wiped him out. His house burned down. He becomes disabled. His business partner dies unexpectedly and he should not have cancelled the life insurance last year. Or your client is Paula Deen and her financial empire implodes in a second, causing a catastrophic and sudden loss in income and net worth.

As the client’s accountant and most trusted advisor, you are his first call. He can’t think straight and you know – whether the wham is good or bad – that he is in the middle of a life-changing event and that you will be helping him through this next phase.

A critical first step is to help your client form a team of advisors that is right for his particular situation – a team that is likely different from his current one. By working with the client to form a new team, the client is forced to come out of shock and into action. It is only through action that the right result will unfold. And while he may be uncomfortable even thinking about replacing or expanding his team, the issues he is now facing may be more advanced or complex than what the team normally handles.

In light of the unexpected turn of events, suggest what types of advisors or specialists he will need, and help him find good candidates. If some members of his current team are not right for his current situation, it may be up to you to make that clear to them.

You could think about this in medical terms: if the client was diagnosed with a serious illness he would consult various physicians for treatment options. The same goes for attorneys and advisors. The client should interview several specialists and pay them for their time. With each meeting, he will learn what advice has been given to others in similar situations. If the event was a negative one, the client will start to acknowledge the depth of the crisis during the interview process.

If the shock is a positive one, the lawyer that is right for the client’s sudden windfall may be different from the one he normally deals with. The lawyer who formed his corporation and negotiated his leases is probably not the right lawyer to help him sell his business to a public company. The financial advisor who has been counseling him in his current financial situation may not be used to dealing with wealth at the level of a significant liquidity event or lottery win.

The client must also be aware that some of the advisors he interviews could have their own agenda. If the financial upside is significant and the advisor would benefit from that upside, that is an important factor to consider. In this situation, the client should interview advisors who have dealt with significant wealth. And as the client’s most trusted advisor, your role is critical – you knew him long before Lady Luck arrived and you will know him long after she disappears.

If the shock is not positive, his current lawyer may not be right for this crisis. While a good general lawyer may be part of the solution, a specialized lawyer is essential. If the client has creditor/bankruptcy issues, he should retain a lawyer who specializes in that. If the crisis may lead to divorce it might be a good idea to consult with a divorce lawyer too.

One of the most important factors in selecting advisors is identifying who the client is most comfortable working with. Whether the wham is good or bad, this is a significant life event and the psychological component cannot be overlooked. Trust is essential. The client is at his most vulnerable, and he needs advisors with whom he can share everything, where he won’t feel judged, and where he won’t feel like someone is using his situation to further their own agenda.

If the wham is negative, don’t underestimate the power of spiritual counseling – even if the client has never sought that type of advice before. He may be feeling shame, guilt, and anger, so speaking with a rabbi, priest, minister or other spiritual/religious advisor might be important to him – someone who has no ulterior motive, who might help him forgive himself, and who will keep whatever he has to say totally confidential.

Having someone like that to confide in may help the client navigate the storm, and help him deal with the impact that his actions have had on those he loves and who depend on him. It is also important for one of the members of his team to be completely independent from the crisis at hand – someone who will bring a fresh perspective to the situation.

The client will find that in bad times, people who know about his crisis will seek him out – friends he never dreamed would care often show up. When that happens, the client should be open to them. Consider whether they would be the right ones to talk to and lean on. There may be a good reason they are showing up now – he should be approachable.

As the client’s most trusted advisor, forming the right team and staying the course while he works through the tsunami of financial, legal, and psychological issues will be one of the most important client services you will ever provide.


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Speak Your Mind