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    Friday
    Oct052012

    REMOVING THE ROADBLOCKS TO YOUR ESTATE PLAN

    Failed estate plans usually fall into one of two categories: either they are not kept up to date, or they are not done at all. The old saying of “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” may seem trite, but it is certainly true with respect to estate planning. There are several common roadblocks that prevent people from executing and maintaining their estate plan.

    The first roadblock is the fear of making the wrong decision.  Families often put off completing their estate planning because they cannot agree on how to answer the big questions, such as who should serve as guardians or Trustees for their children.  To resolve the resulting paralysis, we help our clients understand that once executed, Wills, Powers of Attorney, and other estate planning documents are easily changed without incurring substantially more legal fees.  Instead of putting off the whole process because of disagreement over one or two components, would it not be better to complete ninety percent of your planning, knowing it can later be “tweaked” to make it absolutely ideal?  We make updates and changes to your estate plan easy and relatively inexpensive.  This gives you the confidence to put a “mostly right” estate plan into place while avoiding the myth that it must be perfect the first time.  Keep in mind that an estate plan which is not done at all is one hundred percent wrong! 

    The second roadblock is complexity. Navigating the changes in your life is difficult, and the complexity of estate planning can be paralyzing.  After all, estate planning involves addressing issues of disability, values, family dynamics, taxes, and death.  It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the different aspects of the process.  To alleviate this roadblock, we break the process down into bite sized pieces using diagrams and easily understandable language.  We then walk our clients through the process step by step, only moving forward when there is both understanding and agreement.

    The third roadblock is the emotional difficulty of a process that is often seen as planning for death. We will help you see that an estate plan does so much more than just plan for death: it addresses many current issues, such as lifetime gifts, educational funding, and minimizing the cost of the care for a disabled family member.  Most importantly, it provides peace and security for you and your loved ones by putting you in charge.  Without an estate plan, all aspects of the administration of your estate, from guardianship of your children to distribution of your assets, will be decided by Washington’s default rules.  Why allow inefficient and unnecessarily complex procedures to compound the emotional loss with a financial one?

    Finally, many people put off completing their estate planning documents because they do not know where to go. Perhaps a traditional firm seems too large and stuffy, or you simply don’t know any local attorneys. No matter where you go for your estate planning, we hope that you can overcome these common roadblocks and get a quality plan in place.  

    Wednesday
    Jul112012

    A New Vision for Estate Planning

    It may surprise you to know that 50 to 60 percent of Americans do not have any form of estate plan.  Or that well over 50 percent of those who have done an estate plan have not kept it up to date. 

    As estate planning lawyers, we have always prided ourselves on our competency and expertise – perhaps even to a fault.  After all, what good is our expertise if it is not being utilized by those who need it?  Those of us who strive to be at the top of our profession as estate planning lawyers often spend too much time attempting to impress our colleagues with our technical expertise, and not enough time learning how to remove the obstacles that prevent people from establishing and maintaining an estate plan.

    This has long troubled us and is now spurring us to re-think our profession.  Yes, professional competency is necessary, but it is only a starting point.  We are discovering “again” that we really value relationships. Why not make relationships the focus of our practice?

    We have given a great deal of thought and discussion to this issue, resulting in the following vision for Phillips Estate Law:

    As estate planning lawyers, we strive to create life-long relationships with our clients as their trusted advisors. Through such a relationship, we endeavor to bring value to our clients by providing peace, security, and control before they experience an event that takes it all away.  Thus, we view a Will as the beginning of a relationship, not the end.

    Implementing this vision will involve a certain amount of risk as we attempt to provide clearer communication, better teaching, more efficient fee structures, innovative educational practices, proactive processes, and superior use of technology, all designed to help more people put into place and maintain estate plans that will reflect their values, protect and provide for their loved ones, and even pass down their legacy.

    We will be learning as we go, and we will need your feedback to help us discover what works and what does not.