Peter Slater was a middle child and a bit of a prankster, not above slipping an occasional cigarette load into his dad’s smokes. He imagines that, if this were then, he would have been diagnosed with attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder. He was always bouncing around, he says, always active. Or maybe he just had an abundance of energy.
Early on, he wasn’t sure which he wanted more – to be the Yankees’ centerfielder or Van Halen’s lead singer. His father owned a company in New York City that sold machines for counting, sorting and wrapping money. His example taught Peter about being nimble, cutting your own path and making your own destiny. His mother taught him the importance of being someone to be counted on when times get tough. He says his parents’ influences were equal.
Working with a Big 8 accounting firm out of college, he was assigned to examine New York City tax returns to see if any of a particular client’s employees had made political donations disproportionate to their incomes. Ed Koch was New York’s mayor at the time, and the client wanted him replaced. Nothing came of it, other than that the experience helped Peter see that if one understands how the law applies, one can work with them to a client’s benefit. That in turn got him to thinking about a career in law.
Today, Peter is an estate planning attorney. He likes it that his work puts him in contact with a whole gamut of people and personalities. After all, everyone has an estate.
“Growing up in a home with a dad who had his own business helps me in my work with clients who are entrepreneurs themselves. It gives me an appreciation for the way entrepreneurs see their companies. Maybe they want it to be a legacy for their family, or maybe they want to grow it for the company as a whole, for the larger family. Part of what I do is see to it that the government rule doesn’t frustrate those desires.
“To be truly good at estate planning, you have to listen. I consider myself an excellent listener. I think too many lawyers think their job is to tell clients what they should do rather than listen and help them get where they want to be.”
Apart from the firm, Peter and three friends own a trio of thoroughbreds they keep in Maryland. One of the horses his partners have, named Better Talk Now, won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup and has run in Dubai. The four of them own a two-year-old that ran twice in 2008 and came in third both times in stakes races. They gave her the rest of the year off, hoping she would have a big year in ’09.
So how does Peter’s experience in the world of horse racing apply to his professional life? He has a ready answer:
“There are things you can do to put yourself in the best position to win or do well. But then there’s that part where you need to account for the unexpected. So how do you deal with that? Good planning up front hopefully will take care of the contingencies. But you have to have the flexibility to deal those things that come up anyway. And that means planning for those times as well.”
Peter joined the firm in 2002 with seven years of experience in estate planning, most recently with a firm in Cleveland, Ohio. He concentrates his practice in assisting clients for the succession and management of property during their lifetime, at death and after death. Peter’s earlier experience counseling clients at a “Big 5” accounting firm provides him with a unique perspective in assisting clients who are planning for the succession and transfer of wealth. Originally from Armonk, N.Y., Peter currently resides in Mt. Lookout.