Who Administers My Plan?

To best administer a plan, a number of service providers are needed. Depending on the type of plan (retirement, health and welfare, or executive compensation), different service providers are more relevant than others. We will consider each in turn.

For retirement plans, service providers include benefits attorneys, third party administrators, actuaries, and a trust company to hold plan assets. These service providers focus on your plan and work in concert with your accountants for tax purposes and your financial advisors for investment of the plan assets.

Sometimes, different service providers will attempt to handle both their area of expertise and the area of another service provider (sometimes without knowing it and, thus, considering the proper alternative service provider for the specific role). Crossing such boundaries is not a best practices model, however, and is akin to your administrative assistant making executive decisions. As well as assistants can perform in their role, stepping outside of it frequently leads to unexpected errors and inefficiencies.

Despite the dangers of using one service provider to perform multiple roles, the simplicity of dealing with less providers is often an attractive advantage of such arrangements. The typical plan for an employer will have 4-6 different service providers, including attorneys, accountants, actuaries, administrators, financial advisors, and trustees. Each provider performs different tasks and does not share information with one another, which leads to backlogs and inefficiencies. The employer must deal with each provider separately as well, and in some cases the employer serves as the medium between these providers, which can turn into another job in itself. Each provider bills the employer separately, requiring more administration and potentially leading to multiple billings for similar services. Finally, when issues arise, the employer may not know which service provider to turn to, and employers can exhaust time and energy simply trying to locate the proper party who can handle their query. In light of these complications, it’s no wonder that many business owners sacrifice some security for simplicity.

To protect the best practices model of plan administration while maintaining proper boundaries and simplicity, the Ratliff Law Firm has created a unique strategic partnership to bring together the necessary service providers under one roof to create a one stop shop for pension services. We call it Retirement Systems Services, or RSS. We can handle all of the interaction and coordination between service providers on behalf of our clients, as well as consolidating billing so that our clients do not receive multiple bills from previously unbeknownst service providers. No other law firm takes such a proactive role in the coordination of retirement plan services for its clients. Below is a model of our structure, how we ensure no service provider steps outside of their area of expertise, and how we keep administration simple for you.

Note that with RSS, you will not have to worry about which service providers you may need to best protect your plan or who to call when you have questions. The Ratliff Law Firm handles everything, from coordination of service providers to proper direction of your questions, for you. Through this structure, your plan will be best served, protected, and organized.

In the health and welfare world, service providers include attorneys, third party administrators or insurance brokers, insurance companies, and potentially risk management consultants. Similarly to our retirement services, the Ratliff Law Firm works in close concert with certain service providers in this area, designated in our “Costs and Vendors” section. With the changing landscape of healthcare from the PPACA, reviews of benefits plans by an attorney for compliance and cost management are becoming increasingly important.

Executive compensation service providers include attorneys, trust companies when rabbi trusts are used and other certain types of trusts, and occasionally compensation consultants. As executive compensation frequently involves an in depth look at certain tax code provisions, such as Sections 83, 422, and 409A, the use of a reliable benefits attorney is critical.