Growing up, we sang a lot of Christmas Carols and a lot of Christmas songs in my family, and in other settings. I liked some of them, and others were not my favorites. For instance, the song “Santa Claus is Comin to Town” contains the following lyrics:
“He Sees You When You’re Sleeping. He Knows When You’re Awake. He Knows If You’ve Been Bad Or Good, So Be Good For Goodness’ Sake”
I am fairly certain that the song is just trying to get kids to behave during the Christmas season, so that they will be able to get presents from Santa Claus, but as an adult, I am not sure I really want to have someone watching over me as I sleep, and know when I’m awake, even if it is someone as benign and harmless as Santa Claus. I did get plenty of presents from Santa Claus growing up, and my wife even got coal for Christmas one year (she did eventually get her real presents!), as she was fighting with her brother a lot, but I don’t know that it was always tied to being good all year long.
As an adult, I know the deal with Santa Claus, and I even have my own costume that I use to play Santa Claus sometimes. Certainly my own children and my nieces and nephews see through my ruse, but I can get away with it for those less familiar with me. I will visit church congregations that are not my own in costume, or I have been known to make appearances at other businesses, or even Chick-Fil-A in my Santa Claus costume. It is always fun to make children happy during the Christmas season.
However, even with my extensive experience playing Santa Claus, I still do not know if you are sleeping, or if you are awake! 😉
I do try to keep in contact with my clients. I don’t just write an estate plan and disappear up the chimney (like Santa Claus does) when we get things done. Instead, I am still around and can help if something goes wrong, or if something needs to change. I don’t handle probate administration, trust administration, or probate litigation, as the back end of things is not where I have focused my practice, and not where I want to be involved, but I also don’t just leave people alone. I want to help and support my clients even if I have not been involved for years after writing an estate plan. I am available for a phone call, an email, or a letter. I want to know if something needs to change, or if something looks like it has gone wrong, so that I can help correct the problem.
I do respond to questions and help make corrections, but only if you reach out to me.
I Am Available to Help, Unlike Some Other Services
I have written previously about why you don’t want to just do your estate plan though some online service. The online services usually do not provide the personal level of service that I can and certainly do not provide ongoing support or service. That is something I can, and will, do for you. I will respond to emails, return phone calls, or act on a letter sent to me. I may not always be able to solve the problem, but I am willing to help, and I can often point you in the correct direction, even if I cannot help.
In that sense, I am a little bit different from Santa Claus. If you write a letter to Santa Claus, and send it to him at the North Pole, Santa Claus is unlikely to respond. I have never received a direct response to a letter I sent to Santa, so I am reasonably certain that he only responds by bringing toys, not by writing back. I will write back, call back, or respond to an email. So, I like to think I am MORE responsive than Santa Claus, which means I can provide better estate planning services than the online services that do not respond to you once you have used their services and moved on.
I Cannot Actively Monitor You In Your Life, So You Need to Contact Me
I am not like Santa Claus in being able to see you at all times and monitor everything that you do. You wouldn’t want that, and neither would I! Instead, I rely upon you to reach out to me when something needs to change, or when something goes wrong. I don’t think people really have any hesitation in reaching out to me when something has gone wrong. If something has gone wrong, I am usually one of the first calls that gets made. I am happy to listen to the problem and can offer potential solutions or methods to correct what has gone wrong, in most cases.
In another Christmas song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” a thick fog threatens to delay or cancel Christmas. Without the ability to get through the fog, no presents could be delivered. Apparently Santa Claus and his reindeer engage in safe flying and do not want to blindly charge through a fog and collide with something else, like an airplane, building, or bird. I can understand and appreciate that approach. So, Santa Claus and his reindeer turn to Rudolph, who has a glowing nose and can safely guide them through the fog. The solution involves a completely different approach than otherwise taken, but it fixes the problem. I cannot fix everything, but even with things I cannot fix, there is often some sort of work around or other way to accomplish what someone wants to do. At the risk of stating the obvious, I cannot fix everything, but if we set up your estate plan correctly, there should not be anything to fix.
Please Reach Out to Me to Make Changes Properly
I do find that when people WANT to make changes to their estate plan, they are sometimes less likely to reach out to me. Perhaps they want to save some money, or think they can make the changes on their own. Or they may have heard from someone else concerning how to make changes. Trying to make changes on your own can turn a simple change into a problem. I would much rather give you correct guidance on how to make a change, or make the change in the proper manner, instead of needing to correct an improper change.
I had a client call me just a few weeks ago and describe how he had made changes to his will. He has simply crossed off the language that was originally written, and written new instructions in the change. Had he come to me in the first place, we likely could have made the changes he wanted using a codicil (a will amendment), instead of rewriting the entire will. I would have preferred a quick change to a full rewriting to correct the will, but I still could fix the problem for him. It ended up costing a lot more to fix the change that became an error than it would have to just make the change properly in the first place.
Even Though I am Not Santa Claus, I Can Usually Help
As I have stated throughout this post, I am not Santa Claus, but I can still usually help with what you need. I know the proper way to make changes, and I know a lot of ways to fix problems that come up. I cannot do a lot to change a will, or a distribution of assets, after you die, so you want to get that correct, but I can certainly help in most situations. If you have problems with your estate plan, please bring it to me, and can get it fixed before it is too late. Santa Clause delivers presents all across the world at midnight, so don’t let the clock strike 12 before your estate plan is in good shape…let your estate plan be good, for goodness sake!