Bobby’s Blog

Its Never Too Late for A Priceless Conversation

My Aunt Pari has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and I have been agonizing over how I can help her. Pari was the person who always took care of me as a child. She was basically my nanny.  When I was sick she was there to comfort me and give me soup.  When I couldn’t sleep she would tell me stories about my father and how he worked so hard for us.  Pari does not have much in the way of material wealth, however, she has a treasure chest of stories about how my father and mother met and how they overcame great odds to create a true love story.

As an estate planning attorney, I felt like I was not taking care of my family properly. My dad passed away earlier this year after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s.  My dad had a lot of great stories of his own about how he grew up in  a small 3rd world village and the challenging situations he often found himself in. I regret that I was never able to record any of his stories before he got sick or how his infectious laugh could light up a room. Once again, I see myself faced with losing an opportunity to capture our family’s powerful story from those who built it from the ground up during the 1950’s-1970’s.

My aunt has been so sick that I felt it was very difficult for me to try and interview her now about our family history and I did not want to further burden her.  There was a limiting assumption in my mind that said “its too late to burden your aunt with telling the family stories.”  I just learned that this assumption was absolutely WRONG.

On the advice of my colleagues from the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys and the Sunbridge Legacy Network, I decided to push through my fears and I visited my Aunt yesterday. I have been visiting her a lot as of late, but I would just come to her home as a comfort to her. This time I decided to ask her some questions.  As she laid on her bed, I laid down next to her with a recorder and asked her to tell me the story again how she would go to the train station to pick up my mom back in the 1960s. My mom would come and visit my dad who lived near the Caspian Sea and it was a big event when she would come to visit. My aunt’s eyes lit up and she began describing the train station in great detail and how dedicated my mom was to travel such a long way to see my father. She also told me how the house was so full of life when my older sister was born. She described how my mom had to work almost immediately after my sister was born so they could make ends meet.  She said those were difficult times but those were also the best of times. My aunt smiled when she described how everyone would make a fuss over my sister. She then described how life was like when my older brother was born and the trouble he would get himself into (she laughed). Then she talked about me and how happy my parents were when I was born. She gave me insights that gave me tingles that I will treasure forever.

This recording is a Priceless Conversation that no inheritance can match. I hope to have many more and I hope my aunt has the strength to tell them. I wish I had not waited so long to ask her about these stories.

LESSON:  I believe most of my clients believe they can “put these conversations off til later” but they are wrong. The best time to have these conversations is NOW. Talk about these memories while they are still clear in your mind so you can enjoy reflecting on them. It doesn’t matter if you are 30 years old or 80 years old. These stories are fragile if not properly cared for and are likely to be lost forever. At least I have one story I will share with my kids that they will hear directly from the source. I can’t put a dollar figure on this memory and it is a gift from my aunt that I will never forget. 

Wealth Reception

How long does the average recepient of an inheritance wait before they buy a new car?  Just 19 days.
This fact provided by the New Car Dealer Association provides great insight into how parents leave their wealth to their kids.  I read a book by called the Midas Touch this weekend and I was moved by this statement:

“Character is not improved by the sudden receipt of money. It is revealed by it. Just 19 days before they buy a new car. Do you think thats what parents want their kids to spend their hard earned wealth on? How long does it take for the average inheritance to be spent? About 18 months.

Why do you think this is the case? Probably because the kids are not prepared to deal with the inheritance and the estate planner and financial advisors have not bothered to focus on this idea of wealth reception. We are all so focused on the taxes and transferring the assets from point A to B (which is important and should be part of any good estate plan), but we normally ignore the children and the kids relationships between each other and with money.

Can You Spare a Few Moments of Your Time?

I ran into a sad scenario recently. A gentleman had a heart attack and had no estate planning documents. His family has to hire an attorney to prove to the government that they can take care of their father and to receive money he is entitled to for his care. While they are waiting for this court order they have to pay another attorney to act as their father’s attorney. They also get to pay for the doctor who must submit his evidence to the court. Is this the type of mess you want your family dealing with during this troubling time? An ounce of prevention can go a long way in this situation. I see so many families going to great measures to take care of their families (going to the right schools, buying the latest gadgets, meeting the right friends, finding the right babysitter, etc) but they can’t take a few hours to make life easier for their loved ones if something major happens. Wonder why?

One Question Can Make All The Difference. . .(Continued)

If you recall from my last post, we were right at the point of determining whether Bill Sample’s estate plan worked. Bill, a father of 2 with lovely wife Mary, suffered a heart attack at the ripe old age of 45. How well did his estate plan work?
After 2 weeks in the hospital, Bill returns home to his family. However, he is coming home in a wheel chair and cannot feed, bathe or clothe himself. The family’s income has now been cut in half with increased expenses.  Mary can’t afford the mortgage and puts the house on the market at a low price since she can’t wait out the bad market. Mary gets behind on the bills, is facing bankruptcy, and the kids are going through an emotional roller coaster. How well did Bill’s plan work? Did the documents address or explore any of these issues?

Let’s take it one step further and say that Bill died. He has an insurance policy worth $1million that gets paid directly to his wife. A year later the wife is driving down a local highway, distracted by the kids, and kills someone in a car accident. All the insurance proceeds are subject to her creditors and they are indeed taken. Could Bill have structured his plan so that the death benefits would have been protected from Mary’s creditors? Yes. What if she were to get remarried. Could Bill’s kids get disinherited unintentionally? Yes.

Moral of the Story:
I think it is a critical point to understand WHEN you know whether an estate plan works. Normally, you hire an attorney in Year 1 and receive some documents that you don’t understand and have no way of knowing that they will work. You get very little counseling. You then hide the documents somewhere like it is some mystery to be solved sometime in the future by your family in Year 10, 20, etc. Then, you go on with your life thinking you have done the right thing for your family. The problem is that those documents aren’t put into action immediately and there are no instant results for you to judge the value of what you paid for.

Be careful about the questions you ask when shopping for an estate planning attorney. Are you shopping for the lowest price documents or sound advice that will save your family from a lot of heart ache? Your call.

One Question Can Make All The Difference. . .

As an estate planning attorney, I find it odd that I rarely get the following question from the general public: “what are my estate planning options?” You would think that would be a basic question from people who are in the market for estate planning services. That just is not the case. However, I do get a lot of people asking me the following question: “how much do you charge for a will or trust?”

There is a quote I have heard that goes, “the power is in the question.” I really believe this quote can be valuable when you are doing your due diligence in hiring an estate planning attorney. The latter question, “how much do you charge for a will or trust?” has the potential to steer your planning to disaster. While the former question, “what are my planning options?” has the potential to steer your planning towards securing your family’s future and protecting your loved ones.

Why the dramatic difference in just one simple question? I will use a real life example to illustrate what I mean.

Bill Sample (i am protecting the names of the innocent), decides it is time to go shopping for a will because his college roommate died of a heart attack at age 45. He thinks to himself, if it could happen to Rob, it can happen to me and I better get the right documents in place. He does some basic research over the internet and sees that he can download a will off the internet for $79. He thinks about and decides to call an attorney instead as there may be some stuff that I may miss. He calls a local attorney and says: “My wife and I are interested in doing our wills, how much do you charge for each will?”
Attorney: I charge $250 for each simple will and an extra $150 for a power of attorney and medical directive form, when would you like to come in?
They schedule an appointment for next week, the couple comes in, the attorney obtains their basic information in an hour (name, address, kids names, approximate size of estate, executor’s name) and collects the money for the documents. A few weeks later, Bill and Mary Sample pick up the Wills, put them in their safe deposit box, and now Bill feels much better that he has done his “estate planning.” He feels has done the right thing for his family and now they can move on with their lives.

10 years later, Bill unexpectedly suffers a stroke. It is a terrible event that shocks the whole family. Even though this is a tragic event, at least Bill had the foresight to do estate planning for himself and his family. At least they have all the legal and financial issues covered, right?

I will continue with this story in my next post. . .

One Question Can Make All The Difference. . .

As an estate planning attorney, I find it odd that I rarely get the following question from the general public: “what are my estate planning options?” You would think that would be a basic question from people who are in the market for estate planning services. That just is not the case. However, I do get a lot of people asking me the following question: “how much do you charge for a will or trust?”

There is a quote I have heard that goes, “the power is in the question.” I really believe this quote can be valuable when you are doing your due diligence in hiring an estate planning attorney. The latter question, “how much do you charge for a will or trust?” has the potential to steer your planning to disaster. While the former question, “what are my planning options?” has the potential to steer your planning towards securing your family’s future and protecting your loved ones.

Why the dramatic difference in just one simple question? I will use a real life example to illustrate what I mean.

Bill Sample (i am protecting the names of the innocent), decides it is time to go shopping for a will because his college roommate died of a heart attack at age 45. He thinks to himself, if it could happen to Rob, it can happen to me and I better get the right documents in place. He does some basic research over the internet and sees that he can download a will off the internet for $79. He thinks about and decides to call an attorney instead as there may be some stuff that I may miss. He calls a local attorney and says: “My wife and I are interested in doing our wills, how much do you charge for each will?”
Attorney: I charge $250 for each simple will and an extra $150 for a power of attorney and medical directive form, when would you like to come in?
They schedule an appointment for next week, the couple comes in, the attorney obtains their basic information in an hour (name, address, kids names, approximate size of estate, executor’s name) and collects the money for the documents. A few weeks later, Bill and Mary Sample pick up the Wills, put them in their safe deposit box, and now Bill feels much better that he has done his “estate planning.” He feels has done the right thing for his family and now they can move on with their lives.

10 years later, Bill unexpectedly suffers a stroke. It is a terrible event that shocks the whole family. Even though this is a tragic event, at least Bill had the foresight to do estate planning for himself and his family. At least they have all the legal and financial issues covered, right?

I will continue with this story in my next post. . .