Shareholders Services Group announced an alliance with ComplianceMAX Financial LLC that will provide its advisors with compliance technologies and services. The service will offer tools that provide advisors with a step-by-step process for complying with SEC and state regulations, according to the company.

The centerpiece of the service, called Resources, offers a monthly compliance checklist, a monthly newsletter, registration and licensing services and up to one hour of professional compliance consulting per month, according to Shareholder Services Group.

Fewer Wills Reflect A Slowdown In Estate Planning

Fewer people have wills these days, a trend that some experts attribute largely to an overall slowdown in estate planning.

In 2004, only about 42% of adults had a will, a statistically significant drop of 5 percentage points from 2000, according to legal resource Martindale-Hubbell.

Procrastination is a common culprit, but other factors also appear to be coming into play. Some people have delayed creating wills because they have fewer assets to pass along to heirs after the recent prolonged market downturn. Others are postponing all aspects of estate planning, including wills, for fear that they will have to redo this work later due to uncertainty over estate taxes. (The estate tax is set to phase out in 2010, only to return in 2011 unless there‚s a permanent repeal.)

"One aspect of a will is addressing estate tax consequences, and because this is in flux some people are saying, ‘We‚ll hold off,‚" says James Kosakow, a Westport, Conn., estate planning attorney who has seen about a 10% drop in the number of people doing this planning over the past two years.

For many people, wills are typically created as part of a comprehensive estate plan that includes a power of attorney, health-care proxy, and sometimes a trust. So, those who hold back on one part of estate planning tend to do the same with other areas.

Partly as a result, a growing number of large law firms are spinning off or closing down traditional trusts and estates practices. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, a legal powerhouse with more than 800 lawyers worldwide, confirms that it got rid of its estate planning department last year, but declines further comment.

Across the country, financial advisors are also reporting a pullback. Shawn Roberts, president of Applied Benefits & Concepts, a financial advisory firm in Plantation, Fla., says that the revenue coming from estate planning has dropped by 50% in the last two to three years. The firm, though, is also focusing less on this area, according to Roberts.

In general, people have "decreased appetites for estate planning because of the new tax laws," says Sharon Siegel, a partner at Siegel & Siegel law firm in New York.

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