Yes, I know. It’s shocking… The gal that’s in love with her practice actually hates the words “estate planning”.
I hate estate planning because it conjures up the images of a bunch of stuffy, grey-haired lawyers sitting around a marble, diamond-encrusted conference room on the top floor of a skyscraper, talking about kicking the bucket and who’s going to get mom and dad’s fortune; cutting out Junior because he got a tattoo when dad forbade it; deciding how much each kid will get each month to live on.
That image both bores me and bothers me because that image is not at all what estate planning is!!!
Estate planning, the way I practice it is better called something like “Legal Life Design,” or “Life Engineering,” or “Legal Family Engineering.” I wish the word we had for this practice area was something sexy, vivacious, intriguing, complex, fulfilling, and enlivening, but alas, it is what it is.
Here’s a little secret: Estate planning is a very profound practice. It suits people who are interested in fulfillment, connection, supporting growth and family harmony. Plus, it’s a service needed by every family, even if they don’t know it. It can even help parents become better people, even if the plan itself is never deployed. That’s where the magic is.
The way I do it, estate planning is an opportunity to meet oneself at the doorway between life and death. As practitioners, we get to escort people toward that doorway, help them look back so they can see their accomplishments, their losses—the lives they’ve built. I help them see the honor and dignity in their lives and bear witness to it.
Then we look toward the future; their hopes, dreams, aspirations and vision for themselves and their families. Then we interject the worst-case scenarios and help them work through them all. The worst things that can happen are the only things that stand between their past and their future. We allow their imaginations to run wild and their fear to have a voice.
Then (and this is where the lawyer emerges), I help them understand the legal landscape they live in, and offer the knowledge of how things are and how things could be. I give my clients a chance to choose the road their family will take if they aren’t there to guide them.
And my clients are no longer afraid of what would happen to their family if they died.
People tell me all the time that their experience with estate planning was nothing like they expected. They say they had no idea the burden they were carrying until it was lifted.