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Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Estate Planning Opportunity

I have heard the refrain so frequently. The initial telephone conversation conversation goes something like this, after I answer the phone:

"Uh, hello. Can I help you?"

"Why, yes. I've never had a will. I have such a small, simple estate. Can you help me? I don't think that it would create any real trouble or effort on your part..."

What to do??

The conference with the client is quite different, however. The new client might have a prior marriage, and kids from that marriage; there might be a long lost brother. One of my recent clients made an utter mess of the title to their home. Years ago, they entered into in a series of transfers, at one point giving their home (yes, their home!) to a family member. While they eventually recovered a 50% interest in the property, they had no idea what the state of title was on their property. When I first met with them, I did not understand that they were only giving me partial documentation -- not until after I prepared their trust, and was in the process of attempting to fund it.

An estate plan is rarely such an easy thing. Sometimes it is -- sometimes things go smoothly and there is little problem. However, more often than not, there is a glitch. And mind you that someone, sometime, will discover it and be forced to deal with it.

Actually, this is one of the side benefits of estate and financial planning. While we often think and say that we do not want to burden our children, planning one's estate gives us the opportunity to actually do something about it.

So, if you go to an attorney saying that your estate plan is "oh so very simple" -- do not be surprised if isn't so simple. Really, I hope it is simple. But it probably isn't.

Then, you can deal with the problems, and resolve them -- if not for yourself, then for your heirs.

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