– Words by Lauren Kramer Photography by Lia Crowe
It happens to many Okanagan residents. Introduced to the region as visitors, they fall in love and move, smitten by the beauty of BC’s wine country. For Judith Charbonneau Kaplan, vice president of advanced wealth planning at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, that’s exactly what happened when she moved to Kelowna in 2014.
A native of Montreal, he studied law at L’Université de Montréal and earned a Master of Law Degree in Taxation. She was working as a tax attorney at a national law firm in Montreal when her boyfriend, now her spouse, persuaded her to come west.
“He took me on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and swimming in Okanagan Lake,” she says, laughing at the memory. “How could I not move here?”
At Wellington-Altus, the 37-year-old uses her tax law expertise to ensure her clients are as tax efficient as possible. That means protecting their wealth, helping them with estate planning, and helping them understand how to transfer their wealth tax-efficiently during their lifetime and after their death.
“I’m passionate about making tax law relevant and accessible to everyone,” she admits. “I remember during my freshman year of law school I was amazed that what we were learning wasn’t being taught to everyone. I think that a basic understanding of the law and our tax system is a prerequisite for smoothly navigating most aspects of our lives. I love taking those complicated rules, determining how much they affect a person, and then applying those same rules to get the best possible outcome for a client.”
She works closely with wealthy clients to help them create a wealth plan that fits their needs and life goals.
“A lot of people don’t have a wealth plan, and the first step is to help them understand why they need one, regardless of their wealth,” she explains.
“We begin our wealth planning conversations with a discovery process, where we ask clients about their assets, liabilities and income, but more importantly their values, hopes and dreams for themselves, their families and their business. By asking tough and sometimes probing questions, we empower our clients to think very consciously about what they want for themselves today and in the years to come. Then we help them get there through the wealth planning process.”
The approach in her office is very holistic.
“Everything we do at Wellington-Altus is to serve our customers in the way that is best for each individual customer, and that can vary greatly from one customer to the next,” she reflects. “We have the freedom and support to try things at this company, which is a very dynamic and entrepreneurial place to work. What I love about working at Wellington-Altus is that everyone here has made a choice to be here and we have made this choice because of our ability to always do what is right for our clients. It’s really energizing.”
Judith walks around a lot these days. She runs after a busy toddler, but also laces up her running shoes several times a week. In her 25 years as an athlete, she’s completed many marathons and triathlons, and with a doorstep five minutes from a trail run, she hits trails a few times a week. And when she’s not running, she rides her bike.
But catch her tearing down a lane, she says, and there’s a good chance she’ll consider tax law.
“I love the challenge, the fact that you could be reading the same provision of tax law every day, and a new pattern of facts will force you to see that provision in a new light and find a different approach to solving your customer problems,” says you.
“There’s never a dull moment and the law is constantly evolving, so it forces you to stay current to find the best opportunities for clients. The other amazing thing about taxes is that it allows me to meet people who have accumulated considerable wealth and hear their approach to life, business, work and wealth. Everyone has a great story with a different background and it’s really fun and fascinating to get to know my clients.”
Judith is also passionate about literacy and began teaching adult literacy programs as a student at McGill. Since moving to Kelowna, she has been tutored by Project Literacy, helping students learn English as a second language. “Being able to read is essential for everyday life, but it also opens up new worlds of opportunity and adventure,” she reflects.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been given the tools to succeed, and that starts with reading. So I’ve tried, wherever I can, to pass that love of learning on to others who haven’t had the same opportunities as me.”
Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a publication of Black Press Media
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