Who needs Estate Planning?

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Estate Plans are not just for the wealthy, the famous, or any *fill in the blank* category. These are important planning tools for any adult who has assets, minor children, or wants to make sure their estate is handled according to their wishes. It is for adults who want to have their loved ones avoid messy probate, guardianship, or conservatorship court proceedings by lining their affairs out in legal documentation now. It really is vital for adults who are over 18 years old to have their wishes in line and make sure that they have the people they selected be the ones to handle any decisions.

This post gives some background as to who needs Estate Planning through the lens of who the typical clients we see are.

Though each client we work with has different family dynamics, wishes, and concerns, we do see many clients at certain times in their lives.

The three timeframes we see clients the most are:

1) Clients who have young children. These clients tend to be most concerned about guardianship of their children and making sure the assets are used to take care of them. (Here is a post about common concerns parents often have with this process.)

2) Clients who have adult children. These clients generally fall into two categories: those who have been putting off Estate Planning for many years and those who had an Estate Plan created before that they are restating due to changes in life situations.

3) Clients who are at retirement age. These clients are concerned about really solidifying their plans and may also have charitable goals in mind.

Though clients may have different concerns and goals at each stage, it is crucial that they all take the process seriously and have their plans catered specifically for them. For instance, many of our clients who had previous Estate Plans from other firms never funded their trusts. We make it a point to emphasize funding to all trust clients, whether it is their first time or third time going through the process. It is just that important to ensure that our clients’ plans work as intended.

Our clients come from a variety of backgrounds, varying in age, ethnicity, occupation, religion, you name it. The Bay Area is a very diverse place. This means that our clients may have different traditions, superstitions, or concerns to be aware of so that we can help them feel comfortable and confident in the plan we create together.

Many of our clients do have children, though some do not. As noted in the previous section, our clients very much range in age. We also have clients who come because having their wishes legally documented is an immediate or short term need due to a difficult diagnosis (see blog post). These factors all contribute to the uniqueness of each client’s situation. Many potential clients will call, first saying, “Our situation is very straightforward.” Even if this is their thought, each family is unique and deserves an attorney to take the time to understand their needs and goals.

Our clients often are working professionals. We have seen lawyers, doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, engineers, teachers, government employees, financial advisors, realtors, consultants, small business owners, and each have their own quirks, needs, and opinions.

We pride ourselves on having the sensitivity to treat each client’s concerns with patience and kindness, taking the time to ask follow-up questions and making sure they feel comfortable. Medical professionals may come into the process being very sure about their health care wishes, whereas others may need time to discuss their thoughts with an attorney. Attorneys and engineers may want to go through the process step by step to understand what happens in Option A, B, C. Financial advisors and realtors may be familiar with some forms of funding the trust due to their professional experience, but may need more pointers in other parts. Small business owners may need their business interests connected to the trust or need new business entities formed.

What our clients have in common though, is an understanding of the importance for a quality Estate Plan, appreciation for a high level of service, and a trusting attorney-client relationship. Our clients remind us that no one Estate Plan fits every client and boilerplate documents very well may fail. Each client deserves to have the full process, range of choices, and education about planning shared with them.

Whether you are 18 or 80, having a GOOD Estate Plan created is crucial to keep you in control of your decisions when other circumstances may change.