Someone recently asked me to share a lesson or two that I learned early on as an estate planning and elder law attorney that still impacts how my team and I work with our clients today. 

Let me first say that I love learning. And as professionals, we should always have that mindset — even as time passes and we get 20 or 30 years of experience under our belts. There are always opportunities to be better at what you do, improve how you take care of clients, and learn from situations you could have handled differently in the past. 

But to answer the question: One lesson that still sticks with me today is to make sure that if a client is coming up with a plan that I do not think will work well in the future, it is important to be honest and tell them!

And here is an example of what I mean by that.  I‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌client‌ ‌come‌ ‌in‌ ‌many‌ ‌years‌ ‌ago. He‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌son‌ ‌and‌ ‌daughter,‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌he‌ ‌described‌ ‌it,‌ ‌they‌ ‌had‌ ‌hated‌ ‌each‌ ‌other‌ ‌from‌ ‌birth.‌ Sad — but definitely true. What struck me, though, was when he said that he wanted ‌to‌ ‌name both of them as ‌co-trustees‌ ‌because, in his words, “‌they are‌ ‌both‌ ‌money-driven,‌ ‌and‌ ‌I am‌ ‌a‌ ‌hundred‌ ‌percent‌ ‌sure‌ ‌if‌ ‌I‌ ‌put‌ ‌them‌ ‌both‌ ‌in‌ ‌charge‌ ‌together,‌ ‌they are‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌along‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌time‌ ‌in‌ ‌their‌ ‌life.”

‌ He‌ ‌also‌ ‌wanted‌ ‌them‌ ‌‌to‌ ‌receive‌ ‌monthly‌ ‌allowances‌ ‌so‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌would‌ ‌never‌ ‌be‌ ‌without‌ ‌money.‌ ‌

After‌ ‌he‌ ‌passed‌ ‌away,‌ ‌‌they‌ ‌immediately‌ ‌started‌ ‌fighting.‌ They‌ ‌ended‌ ‌up‌ ‌in‌ ‌litigation‌ ‌together‌ ‌and‌‌ ‌also‌ ‌ended‌ ‌up‌ ‌where‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌both‌ ‌in‌ ‌charge‌ ‌of‌ ‌their‌ ‌own‌ ‌money. In other words, ‌they‌ ‌did not ‌have‌ ‌that‌ ‌monthly‌ ‌allowance‌ ‌‌he‌ ‌wanted.‌ ‌

If I only had a time machine

If ‌I‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌time‌ ‌machine,‌ ‌I‌ ‌would‌ ‌go‌ ‌back‌ ‌and‌ ‌‌tell‌ ‌him‌ ‌he‌ ‌needed‌ ‌to‌ ‌choose ‌which‌ ‌thing‌ ‌was‌ ‌more‌ ‌important‌ ‌to‌ ‌him.‌ ‌

And‌ ‌I‌ am willing to ‌bet‌ ‌it‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌the‌ ‌monthly‌ ‌amount.‌ ‌

‌I‌ ‌often share‌ ‌that‌ ‌story ‌to‌ ‌help our clients‌ ‌think‌ ‌through‌ ‌‌how‌ ‌well each situation is really‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌pan‌ ‌out‌. Are‌ ‌they‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌along‌ ‌any‌ ‌better‌ ‌because‌ ‌you‌ ‌put‌ ‌both of them‌ ‌in‌ ‌charge?‌ ‌‌I‌ ‌always‌ ‌want‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌sure‌ ‌that‌ ‌anybody‌ ‌I‌ ‌work‌ ‌with‌ ‌is‌ ‌at‌ ‌least‌ ‌aware‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌risks‌ ‌of‌ ‌things‌ ‌like‌ ‌that‌ ‌happening.‌ ‌These situations happen more often than you think. 

Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!!

At Leigh Hilton PLLC, we try our very best to make the estate planning process as seamless and personable as possible. And the first step is always to meet with you. The purpose of the initial meeting is actually to get to know you, your family, and your situation so that we can customize a plan based on your unique family situation. 

We have ample experience with wills and trusts and will take into consideration your particular situation. Proper planning of an estate, whether through a will, trust, or both, helps ensure your wishes are carried out. 

Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.

Thanks for reading!

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