In the Fall of ‘87, I was a first year law student. I have a distinct memory of my first day in law school, where I was 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.” Thirty 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 come to our office for asset/estate planning. And as much as I love negotiating real estate deals and resolving loan and debt problems, I love keeping people “ahead of the game” and helping them with establishing an organized legal plan for their final affairs.
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 over 50 years and a smart businessman. 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. Even after his illness prevented him from working, he insisted on maintaining his pharmacy license and faithfully renewed it every year. In fact, each year when the Gallup Poll published their annual survey listing America’s “most trusted” professionals, 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 occupied. Not wanting to rub it in, he’d end the call assuring me not to worry because used car salesmen still 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 for the very worst, he was diligent about his estate planning and ensuring that his business affairs were in order. Many times as a teenager, I felt uncomfortable talking with him about his poor health prognosis and his last wishes. But he was a realist and wanted me to be prepared. In his later years as his eldest son and as an attorney, I admired him for being so responsible and of course for being a fighter. I was never more aware or more appreciative of his sense of responsibility than when, about after 6 months after his death, my mother came to my office to drop off some of his important papers.
As I walked up to the reception area of my law firm, 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 before 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 well as by the family home. She had 3 children and had no idea where to start with organizing her husband’s assets. My job, as my law school professor had earlier described, was to clean up the legal vomit that was left to her by her husband. (His failure to plan would involve over 2 years of legal work and wrangling with disgruntled family members and creditors.)
Both ladies stood up from the couches when I entered the reception area, and as I took the papers from my mother, I looked over my shoulder and greeted my client with a smile. 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, my siblings, his business and his property, the comparison of their respective circumstances that widowhood had brought, hit me right in my gut. I saw what could have been for my own family. 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. So you know, everyone has an “estate”. Estate plans are more than just wills. When appropriate, they include advance directives such as a durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney (living will), letters of intents, guardianship designations and a trust. You can go online and learn more about estate planning by visiting blog.ProvenResource.com. Should you have any questions, you are welcome to call me at 888-789-1715 to discuss your concerns. There has never been a better time to begin a discussion.
Dedicated to your success,
P.S. In Gallup’s most recent survey rank 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.