Readers’ Choice 2015:
Filing taxes and making vital financial decisions are critical at all stages of life; readers recommend these professionals to get the job done.
Ira Fateman, who writes a money column in J., is a certified financial planner and a principal at SAS Financial Advisers LLC, providing financial planning and investment management on a fee-only basis. Noting that he has a counseling background and runs periodic workshops, Fateman says he specializes in the “more challenging personal and family situations that would not either qualify or be of interest to many financial advisers.”
Also in San Francisco, CPA Michael Miller has been in business for 42 years, incorporating in 1996. Personal services include accounting, trusts and estate taxation for individuals and partnerships. Because each situation is unique, he says, “I listen to my clients’ needs and look for the best solution in each case.”
In Alameda, repeat winner Guy Ben Ari, an Israeli-born certified financial planner with Edward Jones Investments, works closely with clients as well as the client’s CPA, attorney and other professionals to determine the best financial strategy. He says he serves “serious long-term investors with an investment philosophy that emphasizes quality and a well-diversified portfolio.”
In Burlingame, financial planners ELM Advisors, another return winner, serves clients of all ages but with “a particular focus and expertise on working with folks who are either nearing or are currently in retirement,” says Elana Lieberman, a company principal. “Many people walk into our office with multiple accounts that are not necessarily working in tandem,” or they’re not “taking advantage of tax-savings vehicles … we help them streamline, strip out duplicative costs, and manage cohesively and tax efficiently.”
CPA Zohar Kaplan, a native of South Africa who has provided bookkeeping and accounting in Mill Valley for 25 years, offers tax preparation services, financial advice and help with budgets. “I do any accounting that needs to be done,” always with an emphasis on “personal attention,” he says.
Winship Wealth Partners, a financial planning and investment firm with offices in Larkspur and San Francisco, is run by Craig and Melissa Slayen, who have been in investment management for 20 years. The company offers a comprehensive approach to wealth management with multiple services. Among them are managing liquid investment portfolios, developing philanthropic giving plans, providing college planning analysis and analyzing the cost of purchasing a second home.
Guy Ben Ari
Winship Wealth Partners
Offering services from estate planning to real estate to business and corporate issues, these attorneys have won over our readers with their legal assistance and know-how.
Founding partner Barbara Moser of San Francisco’s Kaye-Moser-Hierbaum — ranked among the top 100 women-owned Bay Area businesses by San Francisco Business Times — calls her practice “a boutique family law and estate planning firm specializing in complex financial and child custody matters.” Moser says she “has been devoted for nearly 25 years to settling clients’ complex divorce cases with the least amount of acrimony possible,” and she comes highly recommended by family law judges.
Neil Taxy is a partner at San Francisco’s Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick, a general law practice that celebrated its 35th anniversary earlier this year. Taxy’s own practice, he says, “bridges general transaction work (with a focus on real estate law) to intellectual property (with a focus on trademark law) to mediation (with a focus on helping parties making peace).”
In Richmond, David Brown’s 35-year practice specializes in comprehensive estate and trust services, including postmortem trust and probate administration and charitable giving planning. He addresses such concerns as special-needs children, gifts to grandchildren and maintaining the tax benefits of Prop. 13, and he abides by Abraham Lincoln’s law philosophy: Discourage litigation and compromise when you can.
Rob Roskoph, the South Bay/Peninsula winner, is with Crist, Biorn, Shepherd & Roskoph, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco. His practice includes estate, tax and business planning, probate and trust administration, and he represents individuals and families, developing living trusts and wills, and focusing on probate avoidance and tax-reduction techniques.
In the North Bay, attorney Jay Strauss, who established his Novato law firm in 2008, represents and counsels individuals and businesses on a broad spectrum of legal matters. His practice areas include business planning, employment law, human resource consultation, estate planning, asset protection, real estate, litigation and arbitration.
Whether it’s an adventure trip, a cruise or a safari, our readers love to travel, and these agents help them enjoy a hassle-free, memorable holiday.
Repeat winner Sandy Lipkowitz, owner of San Francisco’s We Make Travel Easy, says she takes the stress out of vacation planning, working with “busy individuals who want fabulous vacations and don’t want or have the time to spend researching and arranging the details,” she says. Because of her industry associations, she can often arrange “extras” that are not available online.
Berkeley’s David Ourisman, another repeat winner, refers to himself as “a luxury travel specialist, specializing in luxury hotel bookings around the world,” including such destinations as Hawaii, Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. Ourisman, who has operated his agency for nine years, provides “clients with valuable amenities for their hotel stays”: among them complimentary daily breakfast for two, room upgrades and complimentary Internet.
Ladera Travel in Menlo Park, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has been owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Les and Nancy Burger since 1990. Also a perennial winner, Ladera serves leisure and business travelers, creating customized itineraries to meet clients’ specifications, “taking into account travel style, personal preferences and best values, using the special relationships we maintain with hotels, land operators and cruises worldwide.”
Michal Ron Reihanian, the Mediterranean specialist at Tamalpais Travel in Larkspur, is a native Israeli who has been creating travel itineraries to Israel and the Mediterranean region for 27 years, providing “customized itineraries for any budget, special occasion or special travel needs,” she says. Fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and French, she is able to book “Exodus” itineraries from Egypt to Israel, Nile cruises, Jordan trips or even cooking lessons with a personal chef.
We Make Travel Easy
Michal Ron Reihanian
Readers selected these insurance agents for helping them to choose the coverage they needed, ensuring peace of mind.
San Francisco’s Jaffe-Schlossberg Inc., a third-generation family insurance agency and a perennial winner, is “a one-stop shop helping those in the Bay Area and beyond for all of their insurance needs for over 75 years,” says vice president Adam Jaffe. “We can help you with every type of insurance,” including homeowner, automobile, business, building, life, health, long-term care and disability.
In Palo Alto, Harold Lorber has been with Allstate for over 30 years, winning multiple awards. His specialties include life, motorcycle and commercial insurance. “I can help you protect the things that are important — your family, home, car, boat and more,” he says.
Holly Cade, owner of Cade Insurance Agency in San Rafael, is an agent with Farmers who handles the full range of insurance policies for individuals, businesses and families, including homeowner and rental insurance, life and health, vehicles and umbrella policies. She receives five-star reviews on Yelp, where one client writes: “She’s always helpful answering calls and texts whenever I have questions; true meaning of customer service!”
Minto & Wilkie, also in San Rafael, was founded in 1917 and is a full-service, independent agency, offering policies from a variety of top insurance companies. Policies include commercial coverage; health, life and long-term care; and personal coverage, including homeowner and rental policies, vehicle, earthquake and flood, and umbrella insurance.
Minto & Wilkie
When it comes to buying or selling a home, our readers give stellar marks to these agents who make the process easy and rewarding.
In San Francisco, perennial winner Debbie Herzfeld, a certified residential specialist and seniors real estate specialist, has been guiding buyers and sellers as a Realtor for 34 years, specializing in single-family homes, condominiums and multifamily units throughout the city’s varied neighborhoods. Focusing on personal attention, availability and customer service, she says, “I limit the number of people I work with at one time so that they get the service they deserve.”
Deborah Lopez, another perennial winner and both a Realtor and an attorney, says four decades as a top-producing agent in San Francisco has given her “a depth and breadth of experience that lets me help my clients through the multitude of issues that can arise in a real estate transaction. I have an excellent eye for preparing a house to sell for top-dollar, top-notch negotiating skills gained from my legal background and great marketing skills.”
Dana Cohen, a perennial choice in the East Bay, has been a residential Realtor for 14 years, specializing in homes in the Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont areas. A top producer at the Piedmont-Oakland office of the Grubb Co., she says her “philosophy is high touch with high tech,” offering her clients personal attention while also focusing on a “web-based marketing plan.”
Longtime South Bay winner Susan Sims has been a real estate agent for 11 years, working out of the Alain Pinel office in Los Altos. With a “strong background in marketing and negotiating,” she says her goal is to help sellers experience a hassle-free transaction, while also “helping families who are relocating to the Bay Area navigate the unique aspects of the Silicon Valley home-buying process.”
Mara Kahn of Wine Country Group Realtors in Sonoma is a certified EcoBroker who prides herself on serving sellers by “delivering the highest price in the shortest time possible” while matching buyers “to the right home, in the right location, at the right price, while making the process as understandable, smooth, demystified, dignified and even as fun as I can.” Her website contains valuable tips for buyers, sellers and moving.