How can we help you advance your career and protect your family and loved ones? Here’s our story.
I began my career working with the Medical Association of Georgia in Atlanta right out of law school. Pretty much as soon as I got there, I was unhappy because there was a huge disconnect between what I had dreamed about when I went to law school and the reality of being a lawyer. I had dreamed about going to law school and coming out and making a difference in people’s lives, specifically physicians because I come from a very medical family, but in reality, I was barely helping our physicians legally and instead was at the Capitol playing politics with politicians who simply didn’t care.
When I left MAG I had the opportunity to go to a big Atlanta law firm, but everything is billed on an hourly basis. And, as you can imagine at more than $400/hour, many clients want you to do everything as quickly as possible with as little communication as possible. They don’t want to create a relationship with their attorney because one call would cost them so much and it’s simply not worth it. And this just didn’t fit my goals either. So I left Atlanta, and law, and came back to Athens to help people in a different way, by opening a boutique, very personal fitness center.
But for me, everything really changed when I got pregnant with my son, Max. My priorities totally shifted and I realized that I would not be able to be a present business owner and continue my relationships with my clients because of my new reality and schedule. I also started looking into estate planning and appointing a guardian for Max, because I realized that I wanted to ensure that, regardless of what happened to me or my husband, Max was protected and that my hopes and dreams for him would be passed on to him always – no matter what.
But when I started looking into estate planning and naming a guardian, I was less than impressed. I knew I wanted more than just some documents that I wasn’t even sure I completely understood (even as an attorney!) and I definitely wanted an attorney that I trusted and could build a relationship with, because life changes all the time. But when I started really looking into it, I found that most estate planning was just a one off appointment with an attorney who charged a ton of money for a plan that you really had no understanding of. So I did what a lot of people do – I pushed it off.
And then my grandfather passed away. Well, really my step-grandfather, because it was a blended family. He had been a physician and my grandmother had been a real estate investor and professor, so they had a very complicated and huge estate. I knew that they had spent upwards of $20k over the years on estate planning, but the estate was still a huge mess. What should have been a time of grieving and remembrance became a time of war, as my grandfather’s daughter and estranged son sued the executor of the estate several times creating a ton of turmoil and extra costs. I also know that there are some items still to this day sitting in the Georgia Unclaimed Property fund, along with over $1 billion other assets.
I thought for sure their estate lawyers must have committed malpractice, but when I looked into it, I realized that almost all estates are handled exactly the same way, and what I found out is that it wasn’t malpractice at all, it was common practice. This literally happens all the time with estates, and not just complicated ones. The plans simply don’t work.
What I realized is that clients would come in, the attorney would prepare some form documents for them, they’d sign the documents (most often not having a clear sense of what they were signing), and then take the documents, stick them in a drawer and not look at them again. Just like what I had experienced when I was looking into estate planning to protect my son.
That’s just what the typical estate planning experience has become. And I realized a lot of people’s plans must fail, just as my grandparents’ plan did. And a lot of parents must get just as frustrated as I did when trying to protect their children. There was nothing abnormal about it, but it didn’t feel right to me. Attorneys didn’t have a mechanism for following up with clients, making sure their clients’ assets were titled properly or communicating regularly to make sure their plans continued to work throughout life.
So, I decided to learn how to do it differently and open my own law firm. Create a lasting relationship with my clients where initial planning is just the beginning of the relationship and we’re focused on putting in place a plan we know will work for you and the people you love.
So, here are some of the things we do differently based on my experience with the traditional model of estate planning:
- Nothing we do is billed on an hourly basis. Everything we do is billed flat fee, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. You’ll know exactly what it will cost to work with us, after we’ve gotten clear about what you want, and you’ll even be able to choose your own fee. Then, after the initial planning process, we have options so that you can ensure your plan stays up to date throughout your life, and again you’ll know exactly what that costs and choose your own fee there.
- We are here to support you. That means, if you have a question about your estate or business, we will be here to answer it. We do not want our clients to be afraid to call us. We want to become your trusted advisor – an advisor you can always shoot a quick email to and know you will receive a quick response.
- We see planning as just the beginning of the relationship whereas in the past the plan was viewed as a one-time transactional event.
Once you sign your planning documents – that is when the relationship really begins. At no additional charge, we review your plan at least every three years. And we do have an updating program that includes a yearly review, where you’re able to make changes to your plan at no charge. We don’t need to talk specifics about that today but it is something that we will talk about in the future once your planning is complete, we will talk about how do you want to maintain that. We have systems in place to make sure that your plan is maintained.
Finally, we don’t just focus on passing on your financial assets, but your whole family legacy. I realized after having Max, that if I pass away unexpectedly, I want to ensure that he knows who I am and what was important to me, and, even more, how much I love him. So we offer a process, included in every plan, where we guide you to pass on more than your money, but also your intellectual, spiritual and human assets. We include that with every plan and our clients and their families love having that as part of their plan.
These are just a few of the things that make our firm different. We’re the best fit for people who don’t just want to leave their family a set of documents that may or may not work, but instead want to use the estate planning process to pass on a legacy of love and care and ease. And keep their family out of court and out of conflict.
Having Max gave me the awareness that planning is something that you do for the people you love the most. You won’t be the one to benefit from the plan we are going to design for you today – the people who will benefit are the people you love the most who will be dealing with things after you’re gone. So, my question for you, is how can we help you advance your career and protect your family and loved ones? We would love to help you achieve peace of mind!