My job involves asking difficult questions. The questions are hard because they are about things none of us want to think about.
When I was a young lawyer, I did not realize just how hard these questions were. For example, if a couple has minor children, I have to ask, “Who do you want to raise your children if you are unable to?” Of course that is a necessary question and one that is vitally important. I had no idea how hard that question would be to answer until I had children of my own and had to face that very question for myself! My first response was, “I don’t want anyone else to raise my children. No one else would raise them exactly how James and I will raise them.” But, I had to reconsider, because if I did not make the choice, the courts would. I had to face the question!
The other hard question I ask is, “If something happens to everyone in your immediate family or to you and every one of your heirs, who then do you want to leave your money to?” I usually try to soften it slightly by admitting that I am asking a horrible question. I even suggest that they don’t imagine that this will actually happen. I try to make it absurd rather than something that is likely to happen. My example might be, “What if everyone is at your house and a Tsunami wipes out everyone or if there is an earthquake?” We live in an area that is over three hundred miles from the nearest ocean, and we don’t have major earthquakes.
Again, my own experience has shown me how hard this question is. I was in a meeting with my mother and father-in-law and I asked this question. Even with my experience, I found myself choking up at my own words. “Who would you like to leave the money to if you are gone, your sons are gone, and the grandchildren are gone?” Then it hit me. I realized that I had just mentioned the possibility that my husband and my own children were gone! That was too close to home. I got tears in my eyes.
I shall keep asking the tough questions even though I know how hard those questions are. I must ask them if I care about my clients and I am committed to protecting them, no matter what. It takes guts, but it is important to take care of the client and their family.