Did you know that I often travel to clients’ homes on a Sunday to discuss estate planning issues?
I began offering this as a service through my law firm for multiple reasons, finding that it provides several benefits.
Sometimes, a young couple wants to protect their minor-aged children but cannot take time from work to visit our office during regular business hours. More often, home visits requested by an older person, who has mobility issues. Sometimes, the individual is afflicted with a disease making driving nearly impossible, such as ALS.
No matter the reason why, meeting potential clients in an environment that they feel most comfortable often provides insights about their lives that I would likely not uncover in a more traditional setting. Estate planning is such a personal process, many times revealing long-time unresolved issues between family members, from concern how adult children spend money, to how siblings interact with step-parents to how philanthropic one spouse chooses to be over another.
Likewise, tell-tale signs of elder abuse that may be hidden from me during an office appointment reveal themselves during home visits. Representing as an Officer of the Court, I take this responsibility seriously and I do my best to reduce issues relating to dementia and incapacitation. As an added bonus, I see many family momentos and photo albums, providing me an opportunity to become acquainted and serve my clients even better.
For instance, many times people forget to mention lifelong collections, from stamps, to expensive artwork, to even firearms, that should be discussed and properly addressed within their estate planning documents.
For me, one of the most important aspect of clients’ lives is anticipating what will happen to their pets, when they themselves can no longer take care of them.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Evidence proves that interactions with pets does greatly reduce people’s anxieties, causing variations in oxytocin and in beta endorphins. Actual chemical changes occur when somebody pets a friendly dog, as an example. Animals are often full of love, affection, gratitude and loyalty. This is why I often encourage recent widowers to adopt a furry companion, as a way of easing the pain of loss and loneliness. However, if not discussed prior, pets can also cause stress and expense that can lead to arguments within a family.
Determining what should happen to a beloved four-legged companion in times of incapacitation or death is sometimes the hardest decision made. Ensuring all practicalities are met, including housing, medical and financial needs of that pet, is likewise important. Although dogs and cats are the most common choice, I also have clients who keep prized beehives, parrots, wallabies, horses and miniature pigs!
As the sign above our kitchen reads: Without my pets, my wallet would be full, my house would be clean but my heart would be empty!