Updated: Nov 11, 2022
Captain’s Blog: 001
“Wow. That’s A Lot.”
As an elder law attorney, I counsel clients in estate planning, long-term care planning, guardianships, and Medicaid. At the end of an initial consultation, which typically lasts between one-to-two hours, I have watched countless clients deeply exhale and lean back in their chairs. Then, they utter the same four words, repeated by nearly every client, “Wow. That’s a lot.”
Indeed. The amount of information that attorneys deliver is a lot. It can be dizzying. The overwhelmed expression on each client’s face emphasizes the difficulty of digesting an enormous amount of important information for the first time in one sitting.
An attorney has a professional responsibility to educate their clients in the law. The process of educating clients is two-fold. First, educating a client begins with the fundamental principles of law. An attorney will generally explain the laws created by our state and federal legislative and judicial bodies. This foundational information must be established before an attorney can proceed to the second step in the educational process. The second step is advising the client based upon the client’s specific life circumstances and their personal planning goals. In this second step of the educational process, an attorney expresses how the law specifically applies to the client’s individualized circumstances.
For example, in an initial consultation for a Medicaid applicant, an attorney will explain the income and asset limits, as well as other Medicaid rules required by law. (The first step in the educational process.) After speaking with the client about their personal financial position and goals, the lawyer will then recommend legal strategies to strengthen their ability to achieve Medicaid approval. (The second step in the educational process.)
Beach Barrister is not a law firm; therefore, we do not counsel individuals based upon their personal legal needs. However, Beach Barrister provides the first step of the educational process. It is a forum that offers basic, legal education, so every person is given the opportunity to generally understand the laws that impact us.
In my opinion, education is the most rewarding aspect of my profession. However, there’s one thought that's always troubled me. We reach only one client at a time. There is a significant gap between the number of clients who come into a law office and those who do not. (Click here to read Overcoming the Five Roadblocks to Legal Planning.)
An individual who has scheduled an initial consultation with a law firm has already been moved to action. In the consultation, this client then becomes the beneficiary of the educational process, which begins with basic legal information. However, for every one client that schedules a consultation with an attorney, there are thousands of people who do not receive the benefits of this general, legal education.
To me, these people in the knowledge gap are just as important as the one client sitting inside the law office. Who teaches them? In the United States, our traditional education system doesn’t teach legal planning as a fundamental life skill, yet our state and federal laws affect us all.
A significant number of first-time clients arrive at the doorstep of an elder law firm because a medical crisis has occurred or a health crisis is imminent. The emergency demands swift action, which produces a heightened degree of emotional stress. Individuals are forced to react to the crisis.
The absolute worst time to plan for an emergency is during the emergency. When individuals are pushed into a reactive posture, they must learn complex legal concepts in an abbreviated amount of time under emotional strain. In some circumstances, the immediacy of the crisis also limits legal alternatives. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When the general public is informed, they are given the opportunity to act in a proactive posture, on their own terms. Proactive planning can open the door to more legal options. In a proactive position, the individual is released from the stress of an emergency and the impossible time constraints of a crisis. In this proactive posture, individuals, quite simply, learn better. With unencumbered minds, they are given the time to understand the elements of planning and the importance of planning. Through education, individuals are empowered with knowledge to act before the crisis.
Without education, how can someone proactively plan for something they know nothing about? If they don’t know the importance, why would they be moved to act?
In casual encounters with people from all walks of life—hair stylists, receptionists, customer service representatives—the curious ask me about my work. From these conversations, I've learned that many people earnestly want to understand the fundamentals of estate planning and elder law, but they don’t know where to start. Throughout these chance encounters, I hear a similar theme:
What is estate planning exactly? Isn’t that just for people with lots of money? Why do I need to know about estate planning if I don’t really have much of an “estate?” What the heck is elder law? I’m young, so I won’t need to know about elder law for a long time, right?
This very important segment of our population who want to learn…these genuine questions…and these misguided assumptions are exactly why I’m here. Beach Barrister became my passion project because I saw the need to reach more than the limited number of people who enter a law office. The gap between the people who receive fundamental legal information, and those who do not, needs to be closed. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn about the laws that affect us all.
We'll show you that “estate planning” is really life planning at every age, and we’ll emphasize why it’s important. We'll also show you how estate planning is intricately woven into the fiber of elder law. Let’s spend time together before the emergency, so you’re prepared for a health crisis at any age. Let’s learn this now, so you are not the next client, breathlessly whispering through tears, “Wow. That’s a lot.” Let’s start our journey today! Join us at BeachBarrister.com, and let's begin an adventure for your lifetime!
Plan Early. Plan Often. Plan Well.
Beach Barrister is NOT a law firm. We are an educational forum. We do NOT legally counsel individuals based upon their specific life circumstances or planning goals.
Beach Barrister is NOT a substitute for legal counsel. We highly encourage every viewer of this site to seek a local, licensed, reputable attorney to assist you with your state-specific laws, planning goals, and execution of documents.