We all know how hesitant people can be to confront the idea of estate planning in the first place. Maybe it’s the idea of confronting their own mortality… maybe they’re superstitious about tempting fate… maybe it’s just not fun. Whatever the reason, it can be hard to get clients into the office in the first place.
And once they’re in, and the first set of documents is signed, they seem to have a false sense of security. People seem to be under the delusion that estate planning is a one-time proposition, and that once the plan is in place, they can breathe a sigh of relief and go on about the rest of their lives.
So, even when they’re invited back to do an estate plan review, they don’t always see the need. We ask if anything has changed, and they’re quick to tell us no.
Of course, we know that nothing could be farther from the truth. Circumstances are constantly changing, both within our clients’ personal lives and in our society as a whole, which have an impact – and can derail even the best laid plans.
The problem is that our clients aren’t aware of all the factors that go into an effective estate plan, so they don’t know what might necessitate a change to their plan. They often don’t have enough of a knowledge base to effectively answer the question, “what’s changed?” And they’re not supposed to know… unless they’re estate planning attorneys themselves. That’s our job, not theirs.
So, how do we bridge the gap between our technical knowledge and good intentions, and our clients’ desire for an effective estate plan and lack of awareness that they may need to come see us?
I think it all goes back to the relationship we build with our clients. They need to know that we care about them and their families, and we’re watching out for them. If we’re taking an interest in the developments in their lives, and staying in contact with them on a regular, consistent basis, they’ll be more inclined to let us in on developments that we can help them with. And we’ll have an open line of communication to educate them about shifts in the law, or a new and better strategy that might work for them.
What’s your approach? How does your firm get clients to update their estate plans?
Sanford M. Fisch
CEO & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd., Ste. 240
San Diego, CA 92124