Ideally, estate planning is “by invitation only.” Most people misunderstand this to mean that we, as the lawyers, are the ones doing the inviting. In actuality, it’s you, the clients, who are doing the inviting, by inviting us into your unique and textured lives.
Each person has deep concerns they want to address based on their unique life stories. By inviting us into their lives, it helps us to understand them and their concerns, so that we can hopefully help to make things better for them and their family.
This is true even when it seems that people only want to talk about probate and taxes. Estate planning is so much more than that. When people start the conversation by saying they want to avoid probate or minimize taxes, what they are often saying is that they worked so hard to accumulate things and they want to leave as much as they can for their beneficiaries to make life easier for them.
Many people don’t feel comfortable with this foundational human element and stay safe in “content, worth and procedure,” and avoid “context, value, and process.” However, it is each client’s unique story that provides the context and builds the foundation for each estate plan. It is the value underlying the worth of assets that provides meaning. Because life is in constant change, estate planning is a process of self-reflection and conversation, rather than solely the making of a document or going through probate.
When you see your estate planning attorney, tell your story and write it down. It will make all the difference in the world.