Saturday, July 26, 2008
The issues involved are highlighted by a very common initial telephone conversation with a potential client which might start out like this:
“Hello. Nancy referred me over to you. I have a very simple need, as I have never had a will. I don’t think that it should be a very big deal. Is there anything that you can send me?”
I reply: “Yes. I will be more than happy to send you a client questionnaire. It may require some research on your part when filling it out; please send it over when you can complete it. Then, we can set up a meeting.”
At this point in the conversation, I already feel the tension. So, I might add, “And there is no charge for the initial consultation. I’ll be more than happy to work through the questionnaire with you.”
I might receive a phone call in a week or two. Eventually, I will probably hear back, or I might receive a message through a mutual acquaintance, something like: “Nancy is still working on the questionnaire.” Sometimes, I don’t hear back at all.
When a client is served with a lawsuit in a California Superior Court, he or she has 30 days to file a pleading in response (or, locally, 20 days in federal court). The unpleasant visit with the attorney is something that is forced by the calendar.
But estate planning is different because many clients and potential clients – even those with a law degree – figure that it can be done tomorrow, or the day after. There is always “tomorrow.” And I fully understand that.
In my next installment I will talk about a different way to think when retaining an attorney for estate planning services.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Practically speaking, this shows the intricacies of tax law and how uncertainty prevails over even what is seemingly the most minute of details. One would think, for example, that the IRS would (of course!) look at the overall transaction in interpreting a specific tax approach. But, not necessarily! This small case is a window into tax law, and oftentimes conflicting court cases, Revenue Rulings, and Private Letter Rulings on specific cases. This is "food for thought" for those who would go it alone. Not even the lawyers can figure out this stuff!