7 - Our Maintenance Family

Posted on

Mar 22, 2023


Pennsylvania - South Central PA

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In this edition of the “Red Wagon Estate Planning and Elder Law Show”, we go through the ins-and-outs of our maintenance program. Jeff begins by talking about his personal experience with his mother and the attorneys who robbed them of their money, and how he became one of those attorneys in his first job after getting his certification. This leads into Jeff talking about how Bellomo & Associates’ approach to build relationships and trust with clients, and first and foremost educate people. One of the key ways Bellomo & Associates builds lasting connections with clients is through our maintenance program. Jeff explains what our maintenance program is and what it does for our clients. We hope that you join the maintenance family if you are able and keep up to date with the show for everything you need to know about estate planning and elder law.

Key Takeaways 

Takeaway 1: Jeff’s background

(00:00:25 - 00:04:47)

  • When Jeff’s mother became ill and needed assistance, a surgeon told them to look into care options. He went to an attorney seeking advice, paid a $300 consultation fee, and the attorney tried to trap him into a $15,000 plan without any details, insight or explanation. He forfeited that $300 and went to another attorney who did the same thing, costing him another $300.

  • In 2008, Jeff found himself becoming the very thing he swore to himself he would never be, one of those attorneys that just collects consultation fees. 

  • He wanted to quit his job but his mom convinced him to not throw away all of the work he’d done to get his certification as an estate planning and elder law attorney. Instead of running away from his problems, he was convinced to run at them and change the industry for the better.

Takeaway 2: What Bellomo & Associates is about

(00:04:48 - 00:06:05)

  • Bellomo & Associates was founded on the idea that education comes first and foremost. That is why we have so many free workshops.

  • Clients know exactly what they are hiring us for, only paying a flat fee. There are no hidden charges or billings. 

  • We build trust, it’s not just about making money.

Takeaway 3: Our maintenance program

(00:06:06 - 00:12:32)

  • Clients love the flat fees and everything being included up front. That has gotten many clients to choose us. What we didn’t necessarily anticipate is, what happens on an ongoing basis? 

    • We had a lot of clients who used to be former business clients, and brought to our attention the idea of having clients on retainer like in the business world. This led to us starting up a maintenance program.

  • We have a maintenance family now, clients who choose to pay a flat fee per year to be able to come in at any time, ask any questions and make any changes to their documents. 

  • If the law changes, we call them and them about the changes in the law.

  • Every month we try to have a speaker or event to bring the family together. 

    • It hit Jeff that most people don’t have lasting connections with law firms, so this maintenance program is designed to make and strengthen connections.

    • We can see hundreds of clients on a regular basis, which makes for a significantly better business model.

    • We’ve gotten together at John Wright Restaurant and have had meetings at various parks. 

    • In October we always have a maintenance event where Jeff and the other attorneys speak on the changes in the law and any changes in the industry. 

      • After that meeting, any clients that need changes to their documents can make arrangements to sit down with a team member. 

  • We let our families know that if they maintain themselves in the maintenance program from the day that you started your plan to the day that you pass away, we will honor a one percent fee guarantee.

    • If a family goes through probate or has their assets in a will, typically a lawyer charges around 5%. If they have assets in a trust it’s typically 2-3%

  • Our maintenance programs range from $395-$695 per year. You’re looking at paying that for an hour and a half of an attorney’s time per year, but in return you get unlimited access to the law firm, monthly speakers, monthly events, monthly education, annual picnics and annual maintenance events.

Takeaway 4: The impact of the Secure Act

(00:12:33 - 00:17:00)

  • Several years ago, the law changed. There was the Secure Act that came down, a law related to retirement accounts

  • Prior to the Secure Act, we were able to stretch out a retirement account for a beneficiary over the life expectancy of the child. So, if you have a child in their twenties, there is a lot of life expectancy remaining. You could stretch out that retirement account a long time. 

  • The Secure Act in 2019 said no to this. It said that you have 10 years to realize it. This was a significant change in the law.

  • Listen to your financial advisor on what to do with your retirement account. We’re only letting you know that we’re seeing a change, that you can’t just defer, defer, defer. 

  • The highest wage-earning years for most individuals are in the 50s and 60s, years when their parents are retired. The children have 10 years to pay 100% of the tax consequence.

    • An example: If there’s a million-dollar retirement account, the child has to take $100 thousand of ordinary income each year for 10 years, which could lead to a significant change in their tax brackets. Whereas with the parents, if they had done the same thing and stretched it out over 10-15 years, it probably would be a very negligible result.

  • We’re seeing a lot of financial advisors encouraging people to start making those conversions.

  • The importance with the maintenance family is that as soon as the law came down, we made changes to our software, we waited until it got tested through the national organization that we belong to, and then once it was set and ready to go we immediately started contacting our clients and bringing them in to make changes to all of their documents.

    • All of that is free of charge for all of the maintenance family.

  • What about the people not in the maintenance program? We want to get them as well, they need to pay for the change. The law changed the documents and how we do the planning, and that had to be updated. We reached out to them, we charged them the hourly rates and moved ahead.

Takeaway 5: Some other things to know

(00:17:01 - 00:21:43)

  • If you opt out of the maintenance program, you lose the 1% fee guarantee. You cannot get that back.

  • We’ve only had one fee increase in the 7-8 years of this program. It’s very steady and has worked out greatly for clients.

  • If you are a part of our maintenance family, you will be getting a notification from us about our maintenance picnics and events. 

  • It is very important to us to build a relationship and get to know you on a one-on-one basis. When you look at the maintenance program, you know we’re not using it to make money. We’re actually giving up money with the maintenance program. 

  • Our maintenance families are where most of our referrals come from because we become close with these families and build relationships. It’s a win-win for everybody. We’d love for you to become part of the family.

Links and Resources Mentioned

Bellomo & Associates workshops: https://bellomoassociates.com/workshops/ 

For more information, call us at (717) 845-5390   

Connect with Bellomo & Associates on Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bellomoassoc 

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/BellomoAssociates 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bellomoassociates 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bellomoassociates/  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bellomoandassociates

Ways to work with Jeff Bellomo

Contact Us: https://bellomoassociates.com/contact/ 

Practice areas: https://bellomoassociates.com/practice-areas/ 

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