THE PROBLEM: 50% of Americans do not have an Estate Plan (wills, trusts, powers of attorney).
THE CHALLENGE: Make the case for an Estate Plan to 50% of Americans (or at least to my family, friends, and community).
THE CONTENDER: An Oak Park attorney (sole practitioner) who has discovered the value of both having an estate plan and the ability to draft one.
THE METHOD: One argument, article, or essay a week persuading action.
THE DEADLINE: 7 weeks
CAN ESTATE PLANNING BE SEXY?
Making the Case for an Estate Plan
Sexy and Estate Planning sound like an oxymoron. Estate planning involves discussing two taboo topics: death and money. One would think a couple may experience many emotions discussing death and money. Sexual desire would not be one of them.
Even the law plans for a couple's negative emotions during estate planning. The law handles this problem with a Conflict of Interest Waiver form. This document tells a couple what they need to do if the cannot agree about their estate plan. Essentially, fire their couple's attorney and hire individual attorneys.
NEW ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY
When I first started in estate planning this waiver seemed a bit troubling. The taboo topic of money can cause a great deal of disagreement in marriages. Many a couple have divorced over money issues. Wouldn't needing a couple's agreement involving two taboo topics (money and death) make drafting their estate plan a insurmountable task? As a new estate planning attorney (with many potential couple clients) this question led me to a second question. Will I constantly be getting fired?
FIRST COUPLE MEETING
Consequently, I was filled with much trepidation when I attended my first couple client meeting. The spouse, who had contacted me via email, enthusiastically greeted me at the front door. We sat down in the living room and began to make small talk. The other spouse was called into the room but did not respond.
THE RELUCTANT SPOUSE
Eventually, the reluctant spouse entered the room, sat down and looked very bored. As I explained the details of estate planning, the reluctant spouse remained distracted throughout the entire discussion. Petting the dog, talking to the kids and looking at a cellphone.
My fear of too much emotion began to turn into a fear of not enough. Would apathy lead to indecision? Am I destined to bounce between constantly being fired and not getting hired? Nevertheless, the reluctant spouse agreed to meet in a few weeks. I gave the couple a questionnaire and a list of needed documents and left.
SECOND COUPLE MEETING
Two weeks passed, and I went back to the couple's house. Surprisingly, I was greeted at the door by the reluctant spouse. The reluctant spouse was chatty and engaging. We met up with the other spouse and began to discuss their estate planning desires. The two spouses sat close to each other, laughed at each other's comments and smiled a lot. The meeting was quite pleasant and enjoyable. All estate planning decisions were easily made. We set a two-week date to sign the documents.
At our signing meeting, I was greeted by both spouses who appeared quite happy. Throughout the signing process the couple sat close to each other. They were attentive and affectionate toward each other the entire meeting. This led me to think. Was estate planning a turn on?
My next several couple client meetings were similar in nature. The meetings started with a reluctant spouse and ended with an affectionate couple. I began to wonder. Was creating wills, trusts, and powers of attorney an aphrodisiac? Maybe there really is something to be said for us lawyers being called counselors.
The ultimate test of my theory of the "power" of an estate plan was drafting my husband Mike and my estate plan. We Clancys are a private people (or at least one of is). So, all I can say is this. During the entire process of drafting our estate plan Mike and I never once thought about hiring individual attorneys ;)
What about single clients? I do not ask my single clients about their personal lives. However, I have noticed that all my single clients appeared to be very happy at the signing meetings. I know that when I was dating, I found that the happy men were the most attractive.
THE ANSWER IS YES
Can estate planning be sexy? My experience as an estate planning attorney leads me to answer yes. The critics may disagree. They may say that clients are affectionate and attentive because they are glad to complete an unpleasant task rather than due to an increase in libido. The critics can think what they want. I will stick with my yes answer.
In these times when the world has become so divided and polarized, happiness is harder to come by. Why question it? Perhaps, in the future, couples will update their estate plans instead of renewing their wedding vows to strengthen their relationship.
If I have persuaded you and made my case please contact me or another trustworthy attorney to draft your estate plan. If not, look for next week's argument.