by Seem far fetched? Not if you believe that estate planning ought to focus on what your client values, rather than the value of what your client owns.
Let’s say you are an Estate & Trust Attorney who we will call Joan. You have the technical skills to implement well written estate planning documents.
You are with a potential client we will call George. You ask George how you can help, and George starts to tell you how he knows he should be putting an estate plan together, but starts complaining how his work is taking all of his time and no longer enjoys his work.
Joan has two choices. She can say that’s nice, let’s get down to estate planning.
Or she can try to learn more about George’s work/life balance problem.
Joan- What is important to you?
George – I raised my family to be passionate about their work, while being mindful of work/life balance. My dad expressed a major regret in his life on his death bed of not spending more time with his children. It’s really important to me that my children don’t die with this regret.
Joan -Would you want your children to go through the same stress you are currently going through?
George- Absolutely not.
Joan- If we can put resources in place for your children should you die at an unexpected early age, so they would have more educational opportunities, and more career choices, would that be something you’d like to talk about?
Joan- Might estate planning also bring some clarity to your own financial life, where more choices may become available to you?
George-Yes. That’s exactly what I want.
Joan- Great. I also recommend we bring in a financial planner to work with you. The planner can help you organize your financial life to better understand what changes can be made to support a new career.
George- Let’s get started.
Now is this conversation as far fetched as it first seems?
It is not possible to implement a plan until the client’s concerns have been heard, even if they seem disconnected to estate planning. Plans should not be designed without an understanding what the client values most, supported by clear objectives. The plan is then put into place to implement those objectives. If money touches every part our life, than it is not outside the scope of a caring trusted Estate & Trust attorney to ask the questions and really listen and bring in additional resources to help the client.
The truth is that the majority of clients never will understand the complex issues involved in estate planning, such as the inherent ever changing tax laws , and the various planning strategies. Their lack of understanding will continue to create anxiety- anxiety that leads to fear; fear that leads to indecision; indecision that leads to planning paralysis. And the eternal planning process continues.
Estate planning constantly reminds clients of the necessity to part with their financial resources. Each time they are faced with the possible diminishment of their financial independence, anxiety is created. This anxiety leads to indecision, which derails the planning process.1
I strongly believe that financial professionals which includes Estate & Trust attorneys, have the training to understand which problems they can solve, and which problems they need help with. If you don’t offer your client’s a path to solve their problems, you will most likely hear the dreaded 4 words when you ask for a decision- I’ll think about it.
As Stephen Covey put it, “People see the world not as it is, but as they are.”
1-Values-Based Estate Planning- Scott Fithian