Estate planning is my favorite area of law. I’ve been a lawyer for more than twenty years and have practiced in several areas of law, including trial work, divorce, public agency law, real estate, business formation, transactions, and appeals. I still practice in some of these areas, but estate planning gives me greatest level of enjoyment and highest sense of personal satisfaction.
Educating clients about estate planning — and removing some of the mystery and complexity — is very enjoyable. Indeed, my least favorite type of clients are those that want to rush the process and “just tell me where to sign,” without reading or considering the choices being made. Estate planning has such longterm effects and is such an important part of planning for your loved ones that you should understand what you’re doing, why something says what it does, why one choice was better for you than another, and what it all means.
I also like estate planning because I love genealogy. Family trees, family history, traditions, heirlooms — it’s all fascinating to me. It’s not often that I need to search for “long, lost heirs,” but it does happen on occasion. The need also arises to figure out who gets what at each generational level. That requires family tree analysis. Sometimes clients bring in their family histories and I get to learn about that, too.
Another reason I like estate planning is because I like logic problems — like the kind they put in Dell Puzzle magazines. (You know the kind — “Bill has ten marbles; the red marble is to the left of the speckled marble but below the glass marble; name the order of all the marbles and the pattern found on each.” It might as well ask, “Where is Bill’s cat?”) Sometimes trying to figure out a way to do everything the client wants to accomplish, without causing unintended consequences and while planning for as many contingencies as possible, is a lot like a big logic problem. Good thing I know that Bill’s cat is a Siamese and the tenth marble is the black one with white spots….
All of those factors are intensely interesting to me, but the biggest reason I enjoy estate planning (which includes both planning and probate) is because I really feel that I am helping people. My greatest pleasure comes when clients leave my office saying, “I feel SO much better now!” or “I finally understand this stuff!” When they tell me that they sleep better at night, knowing that their affairs are in order. Or when they’ve just lost a loved one and I can help them navigate probate or other procedures needing attention. Anything to make the process easier. I’ve helped people in the other areas of law I practice as well, but the estate planning and probate areas are so intensely personal that the degree of relief and peace of mind I can afford my clients in these areas cannot compare.