When people like Mike Davis and Beverly White-Seals have a cup of coffee, ideas fly across the table. One that has recently come to fruition is the Howard County Estate Planning Council, a multi-disciplinary organization that meets periodically for networking and to share ideas that cross many disciplines.
As a senior partner in the law firm Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny LLC, Davis has been immersed in estate planning for 25 years, but was aware that many accountants, financial advisers and insurance professionals share the same focus. At the same time, White-Seals, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Howard County, was looking for ways for the foundation to be better communicate with local professionals.
Though the Howard County Estate Planning Council is new, estate planning councils have existed for a long time in many other locations, reflected Mike Davis. “The Baltimore Estate Planning Council is probably 75 years old now, and there about 260 estate planning councils across the country. But, it needs energy and a lot of support to get such an idea off the ground.”
Plenty of energy and support now surrounds the council. “Over a period of several months, we assembled a steering committee with 16 members and started planning our first year’s programming,” recalled Davis. “Both Bev and I were aware of the Baltimore Estate Planning Council and knew that Anne Arundel County has very recently started such a council.”
They reached out to both organizations to learn more about how each was structured and to try and identify what worked — and what didn’t — in setting up and operating the organizations. “We eventually settled on setting up a 501(c)(6) organization and turned our steering committee into our first board,” said Davis.
Estate Planning Can Boost Community
“Often times estate planning is thought to serve mostly the affluent. Done well, it lifts the entire community,” said Nancy Briguglio, founding partner of Brightworks Wealth Management. Briguglio serves as programs committee chair for the council.
The council holds four breakfast meetings annually, generally on the second Thursday of the month, at Seasons 52 restaurant in Columbia. “As a cross-disciplinary organization, we choose topics that impact the clients and charities that our members serve,” explained Briguglio.
The group has heard presentations by Baltimore economist Anirban Basu on the impact of the aging population in Howard County; by estate and tax planning attorneys on high-impact estate and charitable planning techniques; and by insurance professionals on finding leverage in estate and charitable planning.
8 Months Old
The Howard County Estate Planning Council’s first program was on Sept. 8, 2014, at 7:15 a.m. — an early Monday morning. “Anirban Basu, always a good presenter, attracted over 80 to our first meeting,” said Davis. “It was an amazing and gratifying turnout, especially in light of the time of day and day of the week.”
Since then, the council has averaged more than 50 attendees at each breakfast meeting.
Each meeting features not only a presenter but also a “Charitable Moment,” which, Davis said, “is about five minutes we give to leaders of local charitable organizations to explain to our audience what they do and what their needs might be.” The Community Foundation of Howard County and the Community Action Council each have been featured.
The council is on a path to grow. “We had a critical mass of people who wanted to make this happen,” said Mark Stinson, a senior adviser with FAI Wealth Management and chair of the council’s membership committee. “We met our membership goal of 60 for fiscal year 2015,” he said. “Our goal is to get to 100 members next year.”
Davis said that, as the council evolves, it may decide to offer six programs per year. “Whatever we do, we will constantly seek input from our members on how the council can better meet their needs, and how we can involve them more in the organization,” he said.
Davis said the current members spent a lot of time working on a mission statement for the council, and continually try to incorporate it into meetings and programs.