Schwab, Fidelity, or Both? Why Some Advisors Use Multiple Custodians

Advisors want a custodian “that will do what it can to help you grow,” says Andy Berg, HB’s CEO. More insight on how multiple custodians can benefit RIAs via Barron’s

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Cohabitating Considerations with a Significant Other

By: Kory Gildea


Frequently in modern society we’re seeing couples who choose to avoid the institution of marriage while maintaining a long-term, committed relationship with their significant other. If you’re a member of this demographic, it’s important to plan accordingly, especially when living with your partner. In the eyes of the government, a long-term partner is not the same as a spouse, and as such there are a number of planning topics that require extra consideration. For those couples cohabitating with a partner, let’s review a few steps that can be taken to help get your affairs in order.

When living with someone outside of a marriage, the easiest place to start is to form a cohabitating agreement (property agreements or living together contracts may also fit your needs). This is a legal agreement formed between an unmarried couple which protects the interests and assets of each individual while in a relationship. These agreements can be as broad or refined as the couple would like.

What a cohabitating agreement does:

  • Spells out who pays which bills
  • Lists who owns which property going into the relationship and what happens to property acquired during the relationship (think large purchases, pets, etc.)
  • Identifies arrangements related to the living situation
  • Lists what happens in the event of a breakup as well as how disputes will be resolved
  • Determines custodial rights and costs when children are involved
  • Settles other matters couples would like noted when in a serious relationship

It’s important when creating a cohabitating agreement with your partner that you ensure the document will be enforceable in the event of a separation. To do so, the contract should be in writing and signed by both parties. The contract should also be reviewed by each party separately, with best practice being to review individually with a lawyer (this could also be a good time to discuss estate planning). It’s important to note that if children are involved in the relationship, the document should be in the best interest of the children. To do otherwise would increase the chances a court would intercede. Should you and your partner elect against forming a cohabitating agreement, it becomes even more important to have a continuous open dialogue on matters which impact the other person.

If it hasn’t already been a topic of discussion, it’s important to get comfortable talking to your partner about financial matters that impact one another. This doesn’t mean running every purchase by your partner, but the two of you should be on the same page as it relates to general spending habits, your respective financial goals, and how bills and expenses are to be managed. You should also discuss how accounts are to be titled. Each party should be aware of the other’s financial history, and whether a partner’s debt or bad credit could end up impacting them. Lastly, it may be beneficial to discuss tax filing strategies with your partner and a professional to minimize taxes to the best of your abilities.

Under this same umbrella are financial arrangements if you are living together. Splitting rent can typically be handled with relative ease, but things get more complicated if you or your partner intends to purchase a home, or if you’d like to purchase a home together. The main factors to consider when discussing this with your significant other is what percentage of the home each of you will own, and whether or not a person’s ownership is transferrable to someone outside the relationship. The three most common forms of ownership are:

  • Sole Ownership – One partner owns the home outright and determines what should happen to the home in the event of a breakup or death, which would be addressed in the will.
  • Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS) –Each party owns 50% of the home and is unable to sell or leave their share in the house to anyone besides their co-signer should something happen to them.
  • Tenancy in Common – This is a less cohesive form of ownership than JTWROS. Either party may own any percentage of the home as agreed upon and may exit the agreement by selling their ownership percentage in the house. Should something happen to either party, their ownership percentage in the home will pass to their estate or as their will directs.

If, as a couple, you elect to proceed with purchasing a home together, it’s important to have a plan in place if the relationship doesn’t work out. You should also have a general idea of how furnishing costs and future house and property expenses will be split (think property agreement in this case).

How you and your partner approach your respective insurance needs is another important matter to discuss. Insurance carriers of all kinds have come a long way in their coverage of unmarried partners, and now tend to offer comparable products and services as they would to married couples. See below for how most carriers handle some common types of insurance for unmarried partners, and remember that best practice is always to consult with your local insurance agent:

  • Life Insurance – Unmarried couples can obtain life insurance on one another if each has their partner’s consent and has an insurable interest.
  • Homeowner’s Insurance – There should not be any issues acquiring joint homeowners insurance when both individuals own the home. If only one party owns the house, you should confirm whether your partner’s belongings are insured in the event that something happens to the home (i.e., a fire, flood, etc.). This may require obtaining a renter’s insurance policy.
  • Auto Insurance – Most insurance companies offer the ability to share a policy with a partner either through a domestic partner insurance policy or through practices such as adding your partner to your plan as a qualified driver. A shared policy may not be in both party’s best interest depending on each driver’s driving records, the types of cars they own, or other influencing factors.
  • Health Insurance – Many companies and health insurers now offer coverage to domestic partners of the insured. It is important to discuss with your HR representative or the insurance company directly to determine whether any additional action or documentation is needed. It should be noted, if your partner is insured through your company and you’re fired they will not be covered by COBRA as a typical spouse would.

Whether married or not, it’s always important to have the not-so-fun conversations with your significant other and plan for all situations. The difference is, when you’re not married you typically don’t have the law working in your favor. Take time to talk with your partner and financial advisor about ways in which your relationship differs from that of a married couple, and make sure you’re prepared for situations which may arise.

About Homrich Berg

Founded in 1989, Atlanta-based Homrich Berg is a national independent wealth management firm that provides fiduciary, fee-only investment management and financial planning services, serving as the leader of the financial team for our clients, including high-net-worth individuals, families, and not-for-profits. Homrich Berg manages over $9 billion for more than 2,000 family relationships nationwide.

*Homrich Berg does not provide legal or tax advice.  Please consult your attorney or CPA for opinions on any such matters

CIO Stephanie Lang Discusses the Index’s Most Recent Rotation Into Value Stocks with WSJ

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Dow Jones Industrial Average! With ups and downs over the decades, CIO Stephanie Lang discusses the index’s most recent rotation into value stocks as the economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full story here.

How Investors Can Determine if a Mega Backdoor Roth Is Right for Them

Adam Fuller, CFA, CFP, principal at Homrich Berg, explains how investors can determine if a mega backdoor Roth is right for them. Read the full article in U.S. News & World Report here.

Homrich Berg Adds Talent to Roster with William L. Mehserle Jr., CFP®, AIF® as Director

ATLANTA — May 24, 2021 — Homrich Berg continues to acquire next-level talent to add to its expert team of wealth management professionals with the addition of William (Bill) Mehserle Jr. Mehserle joins the $9.5 billion RIA as a Director, coming from FourThought Private Wealth, a $950 million RIA in Venice, Florida, where he was an owner at the firm. In his new role, he will be an integral part of the team, working with high-net-worth clients to help them reach their financial goals as well as bringing an entrepreneurial perspective to the firm.

“It’s rare to find a talented advisor who has experience building their own firm but also has so much of their career ahead of them. Bill will bring the expertise and fresh viewpoint we’re always looking for as we grow,” says Thomas Carroll, President at Homrich Berg.

With a degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Mehserle pivoted his career to the wealth management space in 2013 after co-founding several start-up businesses. His departure from FourThought was amicable after his successful years as a leader with that advisory team, as he and his wife sought to move back to Atlanta and join a larger firm environment for this next stage of his career.

“The wealth management space has parallels to chemical engineering in bringing creativity to a problem-solving process, but what chemical engineering lacked was a personal connection. As an advisor, I am fortunate to develop relationships and see the impact of helping individuals and families potentially meet their life-long goals,” explains Mehserle of how he landed in financial services. “Homrich Berg’s values, culture and people made it an easy choice for me as the place to continue to grow my career. I have the utmost respect for Andy and the leadership team, and I believe that HB shares my entrepreneurial mindset to innovate in how we serve clients while staying true to the core values of being a fee-only, fiduciary firm.”

In addition to providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management to high-net-worth clients, Mehserle will assist in the development of the firm’s use of technology in client service as it continues to grow.

Recognized by Forbes as a Top Next-Generation Advisor in 2018 and 2019, Mehserle is a CFP® professional, Accredited Investment Fiduciary®, a member of the Financial Planning Association and Investment and Wealth Institute. In addition to graduating Summa Cum Laude at Georgia Tech, Mehserle has a Certificate in Financial Planning from Emory University and is currently a candidate at Yale University to be a Certified Private Wealth Advisor.

Mehserle is active in his community and with public service, currently serving on the Board of Directors for Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sheriff’s Advisor Board and Family Promise of South Sarasota County. In addition, he was formerly involved with The Loveland Center, The Venice-Nokomis Rotary Club and Venice Area Young Professionals. With this new role, Mehserle will be relocating to Atlanta with his wife and dog.

About Homrich Berg

Founded in 1989, Atlanta-based Homrich Berg is a national independent wealth management firm that provides fiduciary, fee-only investment management and financial planning services, serving as the leader of the financial team for our clients, including high-net-worth individuals, families, and not-for-profits. Homrich Berg manages over $9.5 billion for more than 2,000 family relationships nationwide.

CIO Stephanie Lang Provides Insight Into Where Investors Can Look for Higher Earnings in Barron’s

Growth equities may have slid yesterday, but value stocks fared much better. CIO Stephanie Lang provides insight into where investors can look for higher earnings in Barron’s.

Homrich Berg Announces Jamie Hennessy as CFO

ATLANTA — May 11, 2021 — Homrich Berg is pleased to announce the addition of Jamie Hennessy as its new Chief Financial Officer.  He replaces Tony Guinta, who is stepping down from the CFO position at the end of May to focus on a more limited advisory role after more than 20 years at the firm. Hennessy comes to the $9.5 billion, Atlanta-based RIA with 13 years of industry experience and CFO know-how, and is an expert in creating scalable reporting and accounting software solutions.

“Jamie is very talented,” says CEO and co-founder Andy Berg, “and his understanding of where we stand and where we want to go allows him to quickly become an integral part of the team.  His work to scale up our management reporting and accounting software will be important as the firm continues our strong growth trajectory.”

As CFO, Hennessy will support the firm by implementing real-time finance and reporting metrics to help the management team optimize the decision-making process and prepare for multi-state operations. In addition to his finance acumen, Hennessy brings an entrepreneurial mindset to the firm as he most recently founded and served as CFO and COO of BiotechExec, a company offering commercialization solutions and senior business executives for emerging companies.

“The collaborative mindset of Homrich Berg is really what drew me in. Each partner’s input is valued and that’s critical to the successful, long-term growth the firm has had. I’m excited to be part of a team dedicated to serving clients’ best interests,” explains Hennessy. “I’m looking forward to building on the foundation and legacy Tony has built as CFO. My goal is to lead our team in supporting growth initiatives, implementing new accounting software, creating more nimble management reporting, and ensuring our financial structure maximizes our ability to serve our clients.”

Prior to his recent entrepreneurial venture, Hennessy served as CFO of Wentworth Management Services, handling finance, accounting and external reporting, and acted as controller for SunTrust’s Private Wealth Management line of business where he worked with current HB President Thomas Carroll. He is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the U.K.-equivalent of the CPA institute.

Having lived in Atlanta previously, Hennessy returns to the area with his wife, daughter and two dogs. Hennessy is originally from the U.K. and graduated from the University of Bath, before spending time working and living in both Wales and Australia. Hennessy is an avid golfer and both he and his wife enjoy spending time traveling to new locales.

About Homrich Berg

Founded in 1989, Atlanta-based Homrich Berg is a national independent wealth management firm that provides fiduciary, fee-only investment management and financial planning services, serving as the leader of the financial team for our clients, including high-net-worth individuals, families, and not-for-profits. Homrich Berg manages over $9.5 billion for more than 2,000 family relationships nationwide.

Gray Divorce and Where to Start

Gray divorce is becoming more common among older Americans. While the financial implications are a big hurdle to navigate, HB’s Tricia Mulcare explains,” The first step I always tell my clients is not financially motivated: Take a deep breath.” Read more via MarketWatch

Homrich Berg Onboards Wealth Advisor Emily Bentley to Elevate Family Office

ATLANTA — April 5, 2021 — Homrich Berg (HB) continues to cultivate a deep bench of seasoned wealth management professionals with the addition of Emily Bentley. Bentley, who has spent the last 10 years with J.P. Morgan Private Bank, will play an instrumental role in growing the firm’s family office service offering.

“As we continue to grow throughout metro Atlanta and across the country, we are focused on investing in top talent to serve our clients and expand our capabilities,” says Andy Berg, CEO and co-founder of Homrich Berg. “We are excited to add Emily and her unique skill set to our family office team.”

HB President Thomas Carroll adds, “I have known Emily personally for many years, and believe she embodies our core values of providing objective, innovative, and high-touch client service.  She will help drive our strategy of using our scale and growth to attract talent and gain leverage for the benefit of our clients.”

In addition to serving clients, Bentley will help lead the strategic growth of talent and capabilities for HB’s family office services.

“I am thrilled to be joining the team at Homrich Berg with a focus on fiduciary, fee-only comprehensive wealth management services for clients,” says Bentley. “It’s an exciting time to join one of the largest independent firms in the country where I am comfortable with the family office capabilities, including its expertise in private investments.  Homrich Berg’s commitment to investing in technology and talent in order to provide a personalized client experience really attracted me to join this great team.”

During her tenure at J.P. Morgan, Bentley was responsible for delivering the firm’s investment, wealth transfer, credit and philanthropic services to high-net-worth individuals, endowments and foundations throughout the Southeast region. She also spent several years with the company serving as an investment specialist in New York overseeing the construction, implementation and oversight of client portfolios.

Previously, Bentley had spent seven years with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey’s investment banking practice, where she advised community banks and specialty finance companies on mergers and acquisitions, as well as raising debt and equity capital.

Bentley graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University with a Bachelor of Arts in economics, and received her MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Emily is an active member of Emerging Leaders for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  An Atlanta native and Westminster graduate, she currently resides in the area with her husband Justin and two sons, Hank and James.

About Homrich Berg

Founded in 1989, Atlanta-based Homrich Berg is a national independent wealth management firm that provides fiduciary, fee-only investment management and financial planning services, serving as the leader of the financial team for our clients, including high-net-worth individuals, families, and not-for-profits. Homrich Berg manages over $9 billion for more than 2,000 family relationships nationwide.

This document is for informational purposes only and is not an offer to sell, or solicitation of an offer to purchase, any security, product or fund. The information does not constitute investment advice and should not be relied upon as such. Certain of the information herein is forward-looking in nature and may be subject to change. Information is as of 04.05.21 unless otherwise specified, with no obligation to update.

Robin Aiken, CFP® Named to Forbes America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors 2021

Congratulations to Robin Aiken, CFP® for being named to America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors, presented by Forbes. This is a true testament to her dedication to guiding successful women towards their financial goals. See Robin’s ranking here.

Please see Important Disclosure Information Regarding Awards and Recognition