When college students I meet find out I am an attorney, many seem to want to connect with me and tell me they want to be an attorney also. I would ask them why do you want to go to law school. Many times the answer is “to make a lot of money.” I often laugh at this concept, most of the time even to myself, and not out loud! Instead of laughing out loud at them, I will respond that there are better ways to make money, and that if their only motivation is money, you probably ought to pursue a different career path.
In eighth grade I had a Junior Achievement business professional tell me that you should never use “I need the money” as justification to apply for a job or as an answer to “why do you want to work here?” I often considered that as I pursued my career in law.
There are parts of my work that drive me. I love helping families, bringing peace of mind, and problem solving for people, before a problem becomes too big. Oddly enough, that is the subject of this blog.
Passion for the Law
In school, and after I graduated, I saw some of my classmates who had true passion for what they wanted to do. A friend of mine is a criminal defense attorney and lives for the “Not Guilty” verdict. The pursuit of a “Not Guilty” verdict makes up for the long hours, the sometimes thankless work, and the financial cost associated with law school – and relatively low pay for the work done as a public defender. I am told the pay is low, but it makes up for the terrible hours, or so my friend tells me. (Obviously, my friend is joking.)
Most families are convinced their kids will never fight about anything. They are sure that once they pass away, the kids will continue to get along, and dividing assets will not be a problem. Apparently they are unaware of the adage that “The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil.” I have observed families fight over nearly everything after parents have passed away, to the point that they will no longer speak with each other after the money is finally distributed.
I strive to prevent this situation from happening. The more clear and straightforward an estate plan is carried out, the less the danger there is a fight will break out over money.
Of course, there are the families that are sure their kids will fight. Those folks take some more careful planning, but with a good plan in place, I can discourage fights. I have had family members yell and scream at me, and I understand that they may not actually be mad at me concerning an estate plan, but are instead processing their grief from losing a loved one – and I am an east target. I am happy to be that target, so long as things to not escalate too far, especially if it helps the family to get through the tough period after the loss of a loved one.
Bringing Peace of Mind
Families are severely tested when parents pass away. I often will tell a family doing an estate plan that we are setting all of this up to allow them to take the necessary time to grieve, and then deal with the money stuff when they are ready. I acknowledge the money part needs to be dealt with, but that it is not the most important thing. Most understand what I am saying: love being able to bring them peace of mind and have less concern for the future when a parent does pass away.
I did have one potential client who told me he wanted his parents’ money more than he wanted his parents. I confirmed he was serious, and invited him to leave, as that is not the type of person I want to work with.
In contrast, some of the older people with whom I work are concerned about running out of money, and their kids are involved because they share that concern. I help families to explore options to pay for long term medical care and costs, including Medicaid pre-planning. I have a client who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and wants to preserve assets for his spouse. We discussed how we can put assets into a trust and preserve money and pay for his life and his spouse’s life, once he has passed away. He wants to care for her no matter what happens, and I will help make that happen. This makes me happy, and brings me joy; is it any wonder I love what I do?
I also advise clients concerning the proper use of safe financial assets that can help pay for long term care. I have a client whose family has a history of heart disease. Although my client has not yet been diagnosed with a heart condition, he thinks it may come up soon. Planning ahead for this client means putting assets into a leveraged up financial asset to plan ahead and make his money work for him as best it can. He is anticipating future needs, and we are solving his potential problem before it becomes too late.
Some of the programs that I can help these folks utilize, like the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit for Wartime veterans, provide tremendous relief for those facing a crisis. This program provides a pension to wartime veterans and their spouses who need medical care and assistance in every-day life. Many of my clients come to me and cannot see how they will be able to make their money last as long as they live. Using this program has allowed me to help clients make their money last for any years longer than my clients originally anticipated they would be able to live.
I have received the second half of my fees inside of a “Thank you” card from many such clients. I helped the family find a way to pay for life and keep the parents living comfortably the rest of their lives.
Making it All Work For You
This is what I love – helping people find their way to accomplish what they want and move on in life without the worries they had before they met me. Sure, I get paid along the way, but I love helping people get where they want to be, even if they may not have known the path to take before I came along.