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If We Go, the Kids Are Screwed

estate planning legal education Oct 24, 2017

This is my family.

For some time now, my wife and I have been talking about the need to update our estate plan. We did a basic plan about ten years ago before taking a vacation to Japan without the kids. But we knew we had a plan in place, so it just wasn't a priority. Sound familiar?

Because I'm opening an estate planning practice in Washington, I thought I'd better just make sure I was all set myself. Imagine my shock and surprise when I finally pulled out my own plan and found that, if something happened to Kristina and me today, our children would be completely screwed.

I've learned an awful lot in the last ten years of legal practice. Enough to know that my plan from our Japan trip ten years ago would entirely fail today. Our youngest wasn't even around then. What would happen to her? Disaster.

The fact of the matter is that most people's plans are set up to fail. Most estate planning lawyers are simply document preparers, and very few focus on families with young children. 

Most people who meet with a lawyer for an estate plan have two short meetings. The lawyer spends just enough time with them to learn “what they have to” to draft their documents. Eventually the clients come in again to sign the papers (sometimes months later), most often not having a clear sense of what they are signing. Then they take the documents, stick them in a drawer, and never look at them again. Most lawyers don't have any mechanism for following up with their clients, making sure their assets are titled properly, or communicating regularly to make sure their plans continue to work throughout their life.

The same thing happened with my parents’ plan. They got a big stack of documents from their lawyer, assumed they were done with everything, and never heard from her again. Years later, they heard she was disbarred for stealing from her other clients, and they asked me to review their plan. I found errors, the law had since changed, one of my siblings had died, and my parents were in a very different situation than when they originally prepared their plan. Had they not been concerned because of their lawyer’s disbarment, they would have done nothing and their plan would ultimately have failed when they needed it.

My practice is different. Very different. Focus on families. No hourly billing. Lots of education. Built in follow up. Help with asset transfers. Regular reviews. My clients learn what will happen with their current plan (or no plan), and then, if they need to and want to, we build a custom plan that does exactly what they want for their families to pass on their wealth, to create a legacy, to avoid court, and to avoid conflict. They choose their own fees. They learn and then make informed decisions about what is best for them.

Too many people are just like me. If something happens to them, their kids are screwed, either because they have no plan, or because the plan they have is out of date or out of order and ultimately will fail to do what it was intended to do. I'm in a much better position now, and so are my kids. And so are my clients.

Where are you? Do you have a plan? What would happen to your kids if something happened to you? Are you okay with that result? 

Knowledge is not power; it is empowering. It's what you do with it that matters! If you want help, call me. 425-502-6234. I'd love to get to know your family better.


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