In my years of working as an attorney, I've seen every type of client imaginable. Truth be told, there isn't much that can surprise me anymore. On the contrary, I typically see the same basic personality types again and again in my estate planning practice. That's not to say that these clients are all the same. In fact, that's one of the paradoxes of estate planning: while clients tend to come to me with one of the following common personality types, each individual has specific needs, goals, and solutions that are unique to them.
As a compassionate and caring estate planning attorney, my job is to meet you where you are — whether you fall into one of these categories or not — and help you work out an individually-tailored, effective estate plan that is designed to meet your goals. But first, let's take a look at the common estate planning client personalities I see.
The Organizer is the “Type A” client. You come to me with color-coded files containing your tax returns, bank statements, and receipts for the last ten years. You know exactly where your assets are held, how much debt you owe, and you never forget a password. When you are ready to start your estate plan, you've already done your homework, and you have a pretty good idea of what you're looking for. In fact, that's the biggest thing that has held you back from getting your estate plan done already. You have done the research, and you think you might be able to do it by yourself using an online template. The only trouble is, you are having a hard time actually getting the thing done. Maybe this is because the process is more complicated than you thought. Maybe it's because you just haven't found the time. Either way, you are ninety percent of the way there. You just need an attorney to put it all together and push you across the finish line.
If this is you, great! With all of the work you have already done on your estate plan, things shouldn't take too long at all once you schedule an appointment. We will meet, go over your goals, priorities, family needs, and assets. Together, we will develop the outline of an estate plan that fulfills all of your needs, and then I'll get to work! Won't it feel good to finally have your estate plan off your plate?
The Perfectionist is almost the “Type A” client, but keeps getting bogged down in the details. You want to be organized, you know you can be organized, but you just haven't found the time or the right system to get everything in order. The Perfectionist has had some version of “Get Stuff Organized” on your To Do list for months, and it just keeps getting pushed back. Your perfectionism (the need to have everything in order) is actually what's holding you back from completing your estate plan. You keep telling yourself you can't meet with an attorney until you have your paperwork figured out. Unfortunately, I've seen people spend years, even decades, putting off estate planning with this line of thinking.
Don't worry! This ia a common problem, and it is one I love to solve! Sometimes clients forget that I am here to help you get your estate plan done, no matter what! If you come to me with a cardboard box full of disorganized paperwork and not quite sure where all of your assets are held, I'm not going to judge you, and I am certainly not going to send you away. Let's put my years of experience to use! We can work together to get you organized and to come up with a plan that works for you. There is no rule that says you have to have it all figured out before you start your estate plan. If that were true, no one would ever be ready! Let me help you get organized and create an estate plan that works for you, right now.
The Procrastinator knows that an estate plan is important. They have talked about it with friends and family. They may have even contacted an attorney in the past, perhaps even gone so far as to start filling out paperwork, and then — life happened. Estate planning fell by the wayside and only comes up every now and again as a pang of anxiety and guilt. Then come the excuses. You know the ones. All the little reasons you give yourself why it's ok for you to keep putting off estate planning:
- You just started a new job, and you don't have your retirement plan set up yet
- You are still renting, but you are planning on buying a house in the coming year
- The kids are in daycare right now, but surely you will have more time once they start school
- You really don't have the money right now, maybe you should wait until things are a little more stable
- You are only five years from retirement, so you might as well wait until then
Whatever the reason you have been putting off estate planning, it's not the real reason. How do I know that? Because none of those reasons actually make any sense. Something devastating could happen to you or your loved ones at any time. It has nothing to do with when you buy your first home or when your kids start school or when you retire. Illness, injury, and death don't wait, so why should you? I'm not saying this to scare you. I just want to be clear that an estate plan is meant to provide the roadmap for navigating crisis when it comes. Since we can't predict the future, we can't wait for it either. In 2020, it's time to stop rationalizing and procrastinating. A comprehensive estate plan is designed to grow and adapt with you and your loved ones over time. It shouldn't be saved for the non-existent day when everything is perfect. It should be working for you now.
Last but not least, we have the Denier. The Denier says, “I don't need an estate plan.” You have convinced yourself (for any number of reasons I will highlight in a minute), that estate planning just isn't necessary for you. Sure, it may be important for other people, but those terrible consequences you've heard about just won't happen to you. You tell yourself:
- Estate planning is only for rich people. I don't own enough to warrant spending more to protect it.
- I trust my family. I am sure they will be able to figure it out once I'm gone.
- Estate planning is a scam. It's just a way to waste money by pretending to control the future.
There all kinds of other reasons I've seen the Denier give for why estate planning just isn't important to them: you don't have kids, you don't own a home, you have never been sick. My response is pretty much always the same: how do you know? First, how can you know the future? But second, how do you know that an estate plan won't work for you? I can tell you, without exception, that I have never met a client who just didn't need an estate plan at all.
Here's the thing: we all are susceptible to illness or accident. Death is inevitable. During our lifetimes, we all make an impact on the world. We have possessions, we owe debts, we form relationships. When you are no longer able to make decisions on your own, whether due to illness, accident, or death, someone is going to have to wrap up those impacts according to some kind of plan. Choosing not to create an estate plan isn't opting out of the whole phenomenon. It is simply choosing to let the state make all the decisions on your behalf. The state will still choose who is responsible for your affairs. It will choose how your assets will be distributed. It will choose who gets to make medical, financial, and legal decisions on your behalf. Don't you think you could come up with a better plan than the default one implemented by the state?
For All Personality Types, There is an Estate Plan for You
You may fit into one or more of these categories (or maybe you are one of the rare personality types I've never come across before!), but no matter where you are, I am there to meet you. Estate planning comes in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one plan that is tailored to suit everyone. If you have been putting off estate planning, let's take the first steps together in 2020. There's no risk at all for you. Throughout the month of January, I will waive my $350 consultation fee. Click here to schedule a brief introductory call with me (these are always free!). We can talk through your goals, see if we are a good fit, and then get started!