Bobby’s Blog

Make Sure You Get The Family Involved

I never spoke to my dad’s attorney about his estate plan. The plan was put in a drawer and we never bothered to look at it or talk to dad about what he had done. After dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I reviewed the documents and realized that it had nothing to do with my father and the instructions were not clear at all. I should have had the opportunity to discuss what my father wanted directly with my father while he was coherent. I believe an estate planner’s role should be to facilitate this type of family involvement. Two critical pieces of an estate plan are clear personalized instructions and family involvement. If you think you are doing your family a favor by not discussing these issues think again. If I could do it over again, I would have discussed the plan with my father and his attorney. I would have asked about the steps I should be taking to help prepare our family and to get our affairs in order beforehand. I prefer a proactive approach to a reactive approach any day. . .

As always this blog does not constitue legal, financial, and/or tax advice. It is simply my perspective on the events that have occurred in my daily life.

Doctor J. Feisee

My father passed away this weekend after a 12 year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. For those of you who are lucky enough not to have encountered the disease I will give you some of my reflections and insights to give you the benefit of my experience. Over the past 10 years our family has spent over $600,000 out of pocket to take care of my father at home. We are a very close family and come from a tradition of taking very good care of our elders. Unfortunately, like most close families we never discussed what life would like if dad became disabled. This is considered to be a “taboo” or unspoken subject. Well I am here to tell you, if you don’t talk about it now with your family then you place the burden on them to talk about it at the worst possible time. You also give the family very few options and are mostly left with heartache.

My father never told me about the level of care he desired and how long he wanted this care to continue. We never discussed where the money would be coming from to pay for his care. However, we did have a legal document called an Advance Medical Directive that designated my mom and then myself as his health care agents. This document, in one form or another, is used in virtually all estate plans. The problem is that it is just that, a form. It does nothing but put the legal burden of making health care decisions on your agent. It does not provide any guidance to your agent as to what type of care and level of care you want. It does not tell you where you would like to be treated and for how long. It does not pay for the care. I think most importantly it does not tell your family how much you love them nor does it provide any of your wisdom. It is just a form document.

What things should a family be considering when dealing with disability and death planning? Well, one thing I regret every day is that I did not ever sit down with my dad before his illness to record some of his great stories and experiences that he use to tell us about. My dad came from very humble beginnings and beat significant odds to marry my mom and to become a doctor. He would tell us these stories with a smile on his face that could light up a room. Those precious stories of how he rose through the ranks will never be told by him again. Although, I will do my best to capture and put those stories in my own words, I wish I could listen to him again. I also wish I had a chance to ask him certain questions about major life choices (his thoughts on how to run a business, his experiences and lessons about money, major influences in his life, the values he tried to instill in me and why they were important. When this illness struck, I had recently graduated law school and was getting to a point in our relationship where father-son was becoming father-friend. I dearly wish that I had an opportunity to talk to him again to record his thoughts. When estate planners talk about transferring assets from point A to B, most seem to focus on the material wealth. My father’s material wealth was very small compared to the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that he kept inside of him. There is a quote I have heard that states “when an individual passes away, it is like a library burning down.” That quote makes a lot of sense to me now.

I also wish I did a lot of other things to prepare our family for my father’s disability. As an estate planning an attorney, I believe it is my duty to help families and change people’s lives for the better. I will discuss what other actions I would have taken in my next blog. . .

As always, this blog is not intended to give legal advice, tax advice or financial advice. It is simply my reflections on my own personal life events. Any other use of this information is strictly prohibited.

Grief Counselling

Last week I went to an estate planning conference where one of the keynote speakers specialized in grief management counselling. I think it is a brilliant idea to have this type of speaker talk to estate planning attorneys. Most attorneys do not understand how to relate to a grieving widow who is the going through the most difficult time in her life. These type of counselling issues are not addressed in law schools. However, you will find many courses on probate and tax adminstration of estates.
Do most attorneys have any idea what a widow is going through emotionally during and after the funeral? I believe an attorney must ask himself/herself how they can truly provide support to the family during traumatic events such as disablilty and/death. I think these are the real issues that attorneys should be focusing on in addition to the “default” estate administration issues. I put the word “default” in quotes because I feel that estate settlement issues are poorly addressed with most clients; and families have no idea what steps are involved when a loved one becomes disabled or passes away. I will speak more of this issue in my next post.

INSIGHT LAW BEGINS

Over the past 2 years my practice has gone through some major changes for the better. First of all, our firm is now called InSight Law. The name actually comes from the negative experience my family has had with estate planning attorneys. The lack of proper planning basically has cost our family $500,000 in long term care expenses to date. My father has been living at home for the past 8 years and the monthly expense for his care is now at $6,000. The estate planning attorney viewed our family as a transaction and basically sold us a document. The financial advisor was barely in the picture and was more worried about his commissions than what my dad really needed. He never talked to us about long term care or any type of insurance for that matter.

My goal in creating InSight Law is to create a counselling experience that peels back the layers and addresses the real issues your family will face. InSight Law is designed to provide families with our InSight and the specific questions families need to be asking their estate planning lawyer. Unfortunately, the majority of families do not know the right questions to be asking in order to be good consumers. It is just going to get worse. Hmm….I wonder where I have said that before. Recall the real estate bust?

This lack of planning will hit us worse because we are even less prepared. That is why I am so confident that InSight Law is on the right track. There are so few us who really care enough to do the right thing for the client. I am excited to be back blogging again. Stay tuned. . .

This blog is for informational purposes and is basically a diary of my daily experiences. It is not intended to be a marketing vehicle or to be used as any type of legal or tax advice.

Recent Trends

My blog is not to be used as tax, legal, financial or any other business or personal advice. It is simply a forum where I discuss issues that come up in my daily practice so I can reflect on them.

Lately, I have been seeing more lending violations that have occured over the past 2 years. I believe during the lending, refinance, real estate boom/craze, lenders cut a lot of corners. Yes, you can bet that there are now a slew of regulations attorneys can choose from to bring a cause of action against a lender. I think this issue is analogous to the stock boom of the 90’s and the resulting litigation that occured following the boom because the financial institutions and the accountants decided to cut corners. The same thing is happening now because many lenders and their local mortgage broker arms pushed many many deals through the closing process; and yes they took advantage of many people who did not understand the loan product they were buying. Be wary of aggressive loan products and read the fine print or you could find yourself with a foreclosure notice on your door.

Recent Trends

My blog is not to be used as tax, legal, financial or any other business or personal advice. It is simply a forum where I discuss issues that come up in my daily practice so I can reflect on them.

Lately, I have been seeing more lending violations that have occured over the past 2 years. I believe during the lending, refinance, real estate boom/craze, lenders cut a lot of corners. Yes, you can bet that there are now a slew of regulations attorneys can choose from to bring a cause of action against a lender. I think this issue is analogous to the stock boom of the 90’s and the resulting litigation that occured following the boom because the financial institutions and the accountants decided to cut corners. The same thing is happening now because many lenders and their local mortgage broker arms pushed many many deals through the closing process; and yes they took advantage of many people who did not understand the loan product they were buying. Be wary of aggressive loan products and read the fine print or you could find yourself with a foreclosure notice on your door.