Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Your Financial Planner Did What? A lesson on how to get your attorney's attention

Monday morning had arrived.  A cup or two of coffee already enjoyed, my first meeting of the day arrived.  It was a third meeting for the clients, meaning it was the day they would sign their completed estate plan.  Immediately upon meeting this couple, I knew they were lovely people.  My guess was confirmed when the she of the couple brought out fresh baked blondies (think brownies, but with chocolate chip cookie batter).  Here, these are for you!  That made me smile, but here is what caught my attention and made me choke on what was my third cup of coffee.

Papers signed, witnessed, explained, and tucked away.  She was putting things in her bag and said to her husband, "tomorrow we meet with the financial guy about that annuity."  Then she turned to me and said, "what do you think of those?  He is creating a joint one for us."  The word "joint" is what caused me to spit and sputter.

Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2012
Originally posted on Frugal Upside - A Frugal Cafe au Lait

Joint!  Wow, wait, he created a what?  Why the drama, they were married after all.  The key is 1) it is a second marriage, for her; and 2) I had created a testamentary spousal trust.  That means when she dies her share of the estate will pass to an irrevocable trust.  Her husband can enjoy it, but not undo it by mistake and or intention.  It will lock in distribution upon his death to her daughters.  And a joint annuity would likely pass to him upon her death, never falling into the trust we created, in a word nullify everything!  Thank goodness the financial planner didn't work on Monday, they saw me before seeing him.

I am not the only attorney to sputter upon hearing about plans created by a financial planner.  The state bar list serve is cluttered with rants about how a well-crafted estate plan is nullified (aka shot to hell) by a well-meaning financial planner.  Lawyers are trained to think three steps down the line, imagining horrible scenarios, and planning accordingly.  It is both a gift and a curse.  We are not happy campers when those plans are blown to bits.

But it is life, and it happens.  I do my best to educate my clients about how to maintain their papers once they leave my office.  I tell them to call with any questions "I don't pick up the phone and follow-up with a bill for a twelve minute conversation -- I can't do my job advising you if you are afraid to call me".  Once they are out the door, all I can do is blog, hope, and maybe,  just maybe those road maps for disasters will remain in place.  So, if you want to get your estate planning attorney's attention, just remember, start by quoting your financial planner.

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