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Friday, September 1, 2006

What to Think About When Approaching Your Estate Planner...

As I sit here, I can't remember one person who really wants to hire an attorney (that is, ignoring the handful of truly litigious plaintiffs I have run across over the 20+ years of my practice).

Most people don't want to hire an attorney. In fact, most probably dread hiring an attorney to plan their estate.

Thus, if you give me a call and tell me that you will think about hiring me, and you say that "I'll call you back in a few days" I recognize that you may not call back. In fact, I am sometimes surprised when potential clients really do call back. The fact is that going to an estate planner is difficult. Most people who hire an attorney to draft their wills and trusts do so out of a feeling of obligation. Facing your mortality is truly difficult. But then...

How I hate paperwork is facing the paperwork.

If you come to me, I might ask you to search your files, collect deeds, and to give me an idea concerning your finances. In fact, I will give you a questionnaire asking you to detail your investments, etc. While I will do your estate plan without all of the detailed information, to do a complete job, I should know the details.

I may also ask you tough questions about your family. I might ask you to separate your family into classifications, like "who is dependable?" and "who isn't?"

I'll throw you a lot of questions, like:
"Who would be an ideal trustee?" "Is she reliable?"

"Who would you trust to raise your children should you pass away?" "He is single and has never had any children -- is he really the best choice?"

While I am an attorney -- I'm still only the attorney. Obviously I don't know your family in the same way that you do. However, I might be forced to ask you questions about your family, your life and illness, and how you perceive the people who are the closest to you. It might sometimes seem that I am being nosy -- but that's far from my mind. The questions are being asked to make you think, and to provide the best service possible.

At the end of the day, however, I have found that my clients experience a near-universal reaction of relief. I often hear them exclaim that they can "now rest easy." This is especially true because -- I believe -- the prime motivation to seek the advice of an estate planning attorney is a sense of loyalty and obligation to others. I have never seen a circumstance where estate planning was done lightly, and I have never seen a a self centered person only living for himself or herself, with an "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die" worldview, run to an estate planning attorney for an easy afternoon of frolic.

Therefore, relax into the situation, and realize that by doing this you are doing yourself -- and those closest to you -- a tremendous service.

(Graphic hat-tip:

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