Will Your Estate Plan Actually Work When Your Family Needs It?
November 6, 2020 is “National Love Your Lawyer Day,” which started in 2001 as a way to celebrate lawyers for their positive contributions and encourage the public to view lawyers in a more favorable light. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’re dedicated to improving the public’s perception of lawyers by offering family-centered legal services specifically tailored to provide our clients with the kind of love, attention, and trust we’d want for our own loved ones. With that in mind, this post gives some insight into how this vision for a new law business model first came about.
When it comes to making a plan for your estate, you may shop around and find a lawyer to create planning documents for you or you might try creating your own DIY plan using online documents. Then you’ll put those documents into a drawer, mentally check Wills and Trusts planning off your to-do list, and forget about them.
The problem with this is that planning your estate is not a one-and-done type of deal. It’s a process that constantly needs tending. If it’s not regularly updated every time your assets, family situation, and the laws change, your plan will be worthless. In fact, failing to update your plan can create its own set of problems that can leave your family worse off than if you’d never created a plan at all.
The following true story illustrates the consequences of not updating your plan. It happened to the founder and CEO of New Law Business Model, Ali Katz and this experience was one of the leading catalysts for her to create the new, family-centered model of Wills and Trusts planning we use with all of our clients.
A game-changing realization
Ali’s father-in-law died while she was in law school. Now, he had paid a Florida law firm roughly $3000 to prepare a plan for his estate so his family wouldn’t be stuck dealing with the hassles and expense of probate court or drawn into a needless conflict with his ex-wife.
But because he had never updated his plan after it was initially created, nor did he take the initiative to transfer all of his assets into his trust, that’s exactly what happened. His family members were forced to go to court in order to claim their assets, and they had to deal with his ex-wife and her attorneys in the process.
Ali couldn’t understand it. If her father-in-law paid $3,000 for a plan, why were his loved ones dealing with the court and his ex-wife?
Some of Ali’s father-in-law’s assets had never been transferred into the name of his trust from the beginning and since there was no updated inventory of his assets, there was no way for his family to even confirm everything he had when he died. To this day, one of his accounts is still stuck in the Florida Department of Unclaimed Property.
Ali initially thought that her father-in-law’s case was due to malpractice, but then she worked for one of the best law firms in the country, and she spent time interviewing lawyers who specialized in planning estates. Her findings led her to realize that there was no malpractice at all in her father-in-law’s situation. In fact, it was common practice.
Ali knew that she had to take action. So when she started her own law firm, she did so with the intention and commitment that she would ensure her clients’ plans would work when their families needed it and create a service model built around that mission.
Will your plan work when your family needs it?
We hear similar stories from our clients all the time. Other than not having an Will and Trust at all, the most common mistake we come across is people not updating their plans. When we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it has not been properly updated, there is, unfortunately, nothing we can do. Once something happens to you, it’s too late to adjust your plan, and the loved ones you leave behind are forced to deal with the aftermath.
To keep this from happening to your loved ones, we recommend you review your plan annually to make sure it’s up to date, and immediately amend your plan following events like divorce, deaths, births, and inheritances. This is so important, we’ve created proprietary systems designed to ensure these updates are made for all of our clients, so you don’t need to worry about whether you’ve overlooked anything as your family, the law, and your assets change over time.
Furthermore, because your plan is designed to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’re not just here to serve you—we’re here to serve your entire family. We take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process, so everyone affected by your plan is well-aware of what your latest planning strategies are and why you made the choices you did, along with knowing exactly what they need to do if something happens to you.
Sadly, many firms do not engage with the whole family when creating the plans for their client’s estates, which leaves the spouse and other loved ones largely out of the loop. Like Ali, we believe the planning process works best when all of your loved ones are educated and engaged. We can even facilitate regular family meetings to keep everyone up-to-date.
Built-in systems to keep your plan current
We understand that planning an estate can be very emotional and stressful for you, so our legal services are designed to make the process as streamlined and worry-free as possible for both you and your family. Unlike the lawyers who worked with Ali’s father-in-law, we don’t just create legal documents and leave you without guidance on what to do from there on. We help you keep your plan updated and able to function as you intend.
After reading Ali’s story, you understand how crucial maintaining a regularly updated inventory of all your assets is. We’ll not only help you create a comprehensive asset inventory; we’ll make sure the inventory stays consistently updated throughout your lifetime. To help with this, we’ve even created a unique (and totally FREE) tool called a Personal Resource Map to help you get the inventory process started right now, by yourself, without the need for a lawyer.
To learn more, visit PersonalResourceMap.com and start creating an inventory of everything you own to ensure your loved one’s know what you have, where it is, and how to access it if something happens to you. From there, meet with us to incorporate your inventory into a comprehensive set of planning strategies that we’ll keep updated throughout your lifetime.
When you create a trust, it’s not enough to list the assets you want it to cover. You have to transfer the legal title of certain assets—real estate, bank accounts, securities, brokerage accounts—to the trust, known as “funding” the trust, in order for them to be disbursed properly.
Many lawyers will create a trust for you, but we will ensure your assets are properly funded. This will keep your assets from being lost and prevent your family from being forced into court because your plan was never fully completed. So we’ll not only make sure your assets are properly titled when you initially create your trust, we’ll also work to ensure that any new assets you acquire over the course of your life are inventoried and properly funded to your trust. Contact us today to get started.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.