You don’t have to look too far into the future to see that your role as a financial advisor is changing – fast.

Disappearing are the days when you could build a successful practice that focused on helping clients accumulate wealth for their retirement. The leading edge of the baby-boomer generation started retiring a couple of years ago and their needs now are for wealth distribution and estate planning

Add a generation of aging entrepreneurs who are relying on the sale of their businesses to fund their retirement and you have converging factors that create either opportunities or threats for the financial advisory community.

Counselling your clients on the topics of estate planning and wealth-distribution strategies is much more complex than simply choosing a stable of good mutual funds, picking the right stocks or even getting the asset allocation correct.

The knowledge required is vast. But, at the same time, it is intricate and often dispersed throughout hundreds of textbooks, thousands of articles and innumerable thoughts of financial advisory specialists. That’s why I was both excited and anxious to receive a copy of Peter Merrick’s new book, Advisors Seeking Knowledge: A Comprehensive Guide to Succession and Estate Planning.

My excitement came from knowing that Merrick is one author who spares no effort in sourcing and compiling knowledge on a subject that captures his passion, as was demonstrated by his previous books (The Essential Individual Pension Plan Handbook and The Trusted Advisor’s Survival Kit). But I also was anxious for the same reason: I knew this latest book would be massive, which – at more than 1,100 pages – it certainly is.

The good news, however, is that Merrick doesn’t intend that anyone would read this book cover to cover. Instead, his goal is to curate the wisdom of more than 50 experts and, along with his own insights, create a compendium of the knowledge that advisors may need to provide meaningful counsel to their clients who are in the later stages of their lives.

This encyclopedic tome has 90 chapters and is actually two books in one. The first is a much scaled-down and more focused version of Merrick’s Trusted Advisor’s Survival Kit (a.k.a. T.A.S.K.) that, by itself, is a worthwhile read.

The stage for building a successful financial advisory practice is set with a discussion of what it takes to become a client’s “trusted advisor” and why that’s important in a world in which consumers have largely reduced advice and advisors to commodity status.

Next come several chapters on practice management, including such topics as determining whether to be a specialist or generalist, and how to make the transition to a fee-based practice. Marketing is high on the interest scale for most advisors, and the book responds with sections on communicating your value proposition and the effective use of social media.

The second “book within the book,” The Trusted Advisor’s Guide to Solutions (a.k.a. T.A.G.S.) makes up the bulk of the combined book. This is where the real meat around advising clients regarding succession and estate planning comes into play. In this section, you will find expertise on the full range of financial topics that you may encounter in your role as an advisor.

These topics run the gamut from family law through financial planning for families with special needs, insurance, will planning and philanthropy. Much of the content is focused on the retirement needs of business owners, such as business valuation, retirement compensation arrangements (including a look at individual pension plans, with content extracted from Merrick’s first book, The Essential Individual Pension Plan Handbook, exit planning and even opportunities for using off-shore tax havens.

As I worked my way through this book (admittedly, not reading every chapter), I occasionally wondered why certain topics had been included or why they were included in certain sections.

I had to remind myself that the book wasn’t designed to be read like a novel, with a plot and character development.

It is, instead, a valuable reference source that could sit on your bookshelf untouched for some time. When a client’s situation dictates, however, it would be there to be called upon – if not to provide most of the information required, then at least to point you in the right direction.

At $135 (currently available at the special price of $115 from, this book is a bargain. If you had to buy comparable books to find all the material found within this book, you’d end up with a shelf full – at a much higher cost.

Advisors Seeking Knowledge: A Comprehensive Guide to Succession and Estate Planning
by Peter Merrick, LexisNexis;
1,174 pages, $135
*** ½

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