I feel I have a unique perspective on estate planning because in my prior life I worked in the world of banking. My first exposure to trusts, powers of attorney, and the basics of probate, before enrolling at law school, all came from daily my work in the bank.
As I sit here now and reflect back on naïve conversations I had with my clients, the thoughts that come to mind are how I meant well but that I should have kept my legal opinions to myself and let the experts properly guide them.
These thoughts are at the forefront of my mind, and my temper is boiling a little bit as I write, due to a conversation I recently had with a client. She went to her bank and was expressing frustration over a legal situation with her banker. After hearing about the situation the banker gave her opinion on the matter and made some suggestions. The banker then printed off a form from the internet, highlighted some parts of the form to fill out, and instructed my client to come back when she was done with the court process and the banker would be able to help her with this dilemma.
I have a feeling that this banker is a wonderful lady and that she was only looking out for the best interest of our mutual client. I hope that she was only doing what she felt was right as she sought to offer assistance. But after the client finished telling me this story, I then told her that:
1. The banker’s suggestions were terrible! Had they been followed it would have cost the client far more than the amount of money that was at the heart of our client’s issue.
2. The form the banker printed was completely wrong for the given situation.
3. The highlighted portions of the form did not apply to the situation either.
4. The banker’s comment to come back when the court process was over is a gross understatement of how complex, cumbersome, and time-consuming the process really is.
In my past life, as a banker, I may have made some very poor suggestions myself. However, now that I’m on this side of the desk it is very clear to me that I should have referred my clients to a qualified estate planning attorney to answer their questions.
I consider it a privilege to be where I am today and to be able to meet with amazing individuals and families every day. If you or a loved one have questions about your estate, I’d encourage you to discuss it with an attorney that works in this field day in and day out.
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This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.