In the Fall of ‘87, I was a first-year law student. I have a distinct recollection of my first day surrounded by equally nervous first-year students listening to a lecture by our contract law professor. He told us that the practice of law was akin to having someone come in and vomit all over your desk. “Your job as an attorney” he said with a smirk “was to clean it up”. Twenty-five years later, there is not a week that goes by that I don’t take a moment to reflect upon that day. But my professor wasn’t completely right. You see, while most people come to see me with a high sense of urgency concerning real estate, loan or contract issues, a significant segment of clients entrust us with their asset planning. And as much as I love negotiating real estate deals and resolving loan and debt problems, I am passionate about proper asset planning.
There is a reason why I am so passionate about asset planning…my father, Ken. He was a terrific father, friend, and mentor. He was also a pharmacist for almost fifty years and a smart businessperson. Several years ago, my Dad passed away after a very long illness. He hadn’t been well since I was a teenager. Despite his poor health, he loved to tell funny stories and joke around. He had an infectious and deep laugh. Even after his illness prevented him from working, he insisted on maintaining his pharmacy license and renewed it faithfully every year. In fact, each year, when Gallup published their annual list of America’s “most trusted” professions, my father would call me up to tell me that, once again, “pharmacists were listed as the number one trusted profession.” Then, without fail, you could sense, through the telephone, his finger slowly sliding down a long list of professionals, and with a slight pause he would announce what double-digit spot “lawyers” and/or “bankers” occupied. Not wanting to rub it in, he’d end the call, assuring me not to worry, that “used car salespeople” remained towards the very bottom of the list.
Because of his illness, my father was always a planner. He had to be. He had a wife, six kids, and a business. Never knowing how or when his health would turn, he was diligent about his estate planning and that his business affairs were in order. Many times as a teenager, I felt uncomfortable talking with him about his poor prognosis and his last wishes. But in his later years as his eldest son and as an attorney, I admired him for being so responsible. Never more so than when, after six months after his death, my mother came to my office to drop off some important papers.
As I walked up to the reception area, sitting on the couch opposite my mother was my 11 a.m. appointment, a woman in her late 50’s. Her husband had passed about a year after my Dad. He had owned a plumbing business and several months after his death, their bank had demanded full payment on their business loan, secured by a small store front. As I took the papers from my mother, I looked over my shoulder and smiled at my client. Just then, it struck me. Both of these women had lost their husbands, each on opposite sides of the asset-planning spectrum. After all those years of listening to my father’s worries and concerns over what would become of my mother, his business and property, it finally came home to roost when looking at both women and seeing what could have been. It was a bittersweet observation and one which I felt compelled to share with you now.
There are many ways to begin an estate plan. Just so you know, everyone has an “estate.” Estate plans are more than just wills. When appropriate, they also include a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, letters of intent, guardianship designations, and trusts.
You can go online and learn more about estate planning by visiting www.ProvenResource.com. Should you have any questions, you are welcome to call me at 888-789-1715 to discuss your concerns. It is always a good time to begin the discussion.
P.S. In Gallup’s most recent survey ranking America’s Most Trusted Professions, pharmacists and nurses ranked as among the “most trusted” professionals. It’s no surprise that used car salesmen outranked members of Congress this year.