2016 WealthCounsel Symposium Debrief

By Kristina Schneider, Executive Director

It’s Tuesday, October 25, 2016 and I just returned to the office from the 2016 WealthCounsel Symposium in Washington, D.C.  The annual conference for WealthCounsel is always one that is a bit personal to me, as it was the conference I first attended a week after Phil hired me back in July 2004.  It’s always fun to see familiar faces and to be around the very people that we help throughout the year.  As an internet-based company, it’s pretty rare that we have face-to-face contact and most of all of my contact with our customers is via e-mail and telephone.

This year’s conference was a lot of fun.

Tuesday had a number of optional courses that attendees could take.  In particular, many of the courses appeared to focus on the area of Elder Law planning, with courses about MAPTs, VAPTs, and Special Needs Trust Planning.

One noteworthy workshop that caught the eye of our President, Phil Kavesh, was the Estate Planning Law Specialist (EPLS) Review Course.  In California and some other states, the State Bar has its own process of being certified as an estate planning specialist.  So, unfortunately, this course does not apply.  However, for majority of the states, this certification which is awarded by the Estate Law Specialist Board, Inc. (ELSB), an attorney-run organization accredited by the American Bar Association, is extremely powerful for estate planners. As many people know, we are believers in estate planning attorneys becoming certified as specialists in the area of estate planning.  It helps show a greater deal of credibility and authority in the area of estate planning.  This course was designed to assist attendees in preparing for this exclusive certification.

ultimate-estate-planner-boothTuesday afternoon also meant booth set up for us.  I had the help of my colleague, David, to put together our booth.  All of our boxes and packages arrived in one piece. We were able to get all of our materials up pretty quickly, too.  As usual, we had our share of candy to offer attendees and ever since last year, we started offering healthy snack options too (bananas, tangerines, and even some small crackers).

After the booth was all set up, I had the pleasure of joining several other Symposium attendees on one of the extracurricular excursions that WealthCounsel typically offers: The Monuments at Midnight Tour.  I had never been to Washington, D.C. and I knew that for majority of the conference, I would be tied up at the hotel.  So, this was a perfect opportunity to get out and see the sights.  Our tour guide was amazing and provided a great deal of facts and background information about the monuments and the various buildings that we passed.  My favorite sights were the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument (I couldn’t get “Jennaaay!” from Forest Gump out of my head!) and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  I was not prepared to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  To see the sheer amount of names and lives lost at war, I certainly was moved to tears.  If you haven’t seen the various sights in Washington, D.C.—especially at night—I highly recommend that you do.


Wednesday was the official start of the conference and the opening keynote speaker, Celeste Headlee, gave an amazing talk entitled, “How to Have Better Conversations” to kick off the Symposium.  She has given a similar TED Talk, too.  WATCH NOW

Wednesday courses were spent much on the topic of Asset Protection and Elder Law planning updates.  We also had the pleasure of spending some time catching up with Robert Keebler, who was giving a talk about the new 2704 Regulations.  Bob, as many know, is a very busy man and much of the interaction we have with him is also done remotely.  So, it’s always nice to see him in person.

The morning sessions were followed by a few optional Lunch & Learn courses and the afternoon courses included topics about Trust Protectors, Series LLCs, and Member Success Stories.  Were were a bit bummed to see that the workshop on “Battling Burnout in the Legal Profession” was cancelled.  It sounded like a topic that we felt many solo practitioners and fellow estate planners could certainly relate to.  It’s definitely one of many reasons why we promote our Ultimate Level Online Training Program, which helps train attorneys on all of the things you don’t learn in law school and continuing education courses.


with Pat O’Brien (left) and Mike Furlong (top)

Following all the Wednesday workshops, WealthCounsel hosted a Welcome Reception.  This was a great opportunity as an exhibitor to meet and greet all of those in attendance.  I didn’t get a chance to mingle and get away for a drink during the reception, but I did have the opportunity after the reception to join some attendees over at Clyde’s for a wonderful discussion over dinner.  After dinner, we had the “pleasure” of hanging out in the lounge together and watching the third and final Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (nothing a couple of cocktails couldn’t help make a little less painful!).

Thursday was another bright and early day.  Starting breakfast at 6:30am means that I was up and ready and downstairs at the equivalent of 3:30am Pacific Time.  It’s times like that, I wish I was a coffee drinker!  Thursday morning sessions included programs about setting fees, looking beyond your fee and adding value to your planning, thriving in estate planning, the popular “Art of the Close” talk many attendees were raving about, looking at the potential planning as a result of this year’s Presidential Elections, client maintenance plans, and much more.  It was definitely a packed day and many attendees were busy going from session to session with all of the interesting topics.

kristina-schneider-wealthcounselThursday evening was another night of shenanigans with a Member Appreciation Reception out in the Pavilion, just outside of the hotel.  We had to do some pre-booth packing up and said goodbye to some exhibitors that were leaving already.  Once we were done, Phil, David and I had the opportunity to head down to the reception to mingle some more.  I used my drink ticket to snag a glass of rosé.  As I went to throw some trash away, I passed by this sign that said “No Alcohol Beyond This Point”.  I decided it was a great photo opportunity!

Once the reception was over, I called it a night and prepared for my last night in D.C. and started some packing for my return home.

Wishing Steve Oshins a Happy Birthday with Brian Simmons (Premier Trust) and Jonathan Mintz (Matsen Voorhees Mintz, LLP)

Wishing Steve Oshins a Happy Birthday with Brian Simmons (Premier Trust) and Jonathan Mintz (Matsen Voorhees Mintz, LLP)

Friday morning was another bright and early day.  We were able to meet up with a few new faces that we hadn’t seen and chat with them about the various products and services that we have to offer.  We closed a few more Ultimate Level registrations and some Trustee Manual and IRA Calculator Sales and then it was time to pack up and head to the airport for our flight home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Washington, D.C.  The hotel and location was perfect!  We are looking forward to next year’s Symposium in our backyard in Hollywood, California.  Will you be there?


  • Seeing a lot of familiar faces, including Kristin Y., Anthony B., Ian from Parasec, James and Michael from Integrity Marketing, Julie from Million Dollar Solution, Gino and Brian from Premier Trust and many more!
  • Reconnecting with many Ultimate Level alumni like Scott A., Howard K., Ron M., Pat O., Paul B., Fiona V., Yvonne O., Terri H., Patricia M., George P., Kim H., Leigh H. and Guy G.!
  • Tour of the Washington D.C. Monuments and sights (lots of pictures and selfies!)
  • Making a lot of new friends and new connections (Abe, Van, and Jeramie to name a few)
  • Having everyone mistake Phil for Vince Vaughn (and the Ruby Receptionist people even asking him to do a soundbite recording for the staff)
  • Leaving my cell phone in the bathroom (EEK!) and my credit card at Clyde’s (OOPS!  Thaaaat was fun!)
  • Symposium App which was a cool way to get updates on courses and conference changes, as well as a photo feed that was similar to Instagram


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