When clients have a dilemma, the first question they typically ask me is what legal avenue can be pursued to resolve the situation. Clients naturally expect their attorneys to have legal answers to their legal issues. While attorneys are formally trained in a myriad of legal remedies, sometimes the best and least expensive course of action is not a legal one at all.
I once had clients who inherited an IRA. The IRA custodian refused to distribute the IRA in the manner we requested. My clients asked me whether I could sue the IRA custodian to force it to comply with our request. Instead of fighting a giant financial institution, I found a different IRA custodian that was willing to fulfill our request. The solution was simply to transfer the IRA to the new custodian.
On another occasion, I had a client who wanted to get rid of a timeshare. She spent hundreds of dollars unsuccessfully trying to sell it. She asked me about legal consequences of defaulting on the association dues and the taxes. While researching legal options, it occurred to me that a charity might be willing to accept the timeshare as a donation. I found a charity that took the timeshare off of my client’s hands. We avoided a big fight with a large timeshare company and also avoided the negative consequences of defaulting on owner association fees and taxes.
Several years ago, a client’s father died leaving literally hundreds of stocks held in certificate form. The stock certificates were to be divided amongst eight beneficiaries. My client was having trouble with the stock transfer agent and was told that it was not possible to divide the stocks in such a manner without major expense. My client naturally asked me if legally I could find a way to force the stock transfer agent to divide the stocks in such a manner without the additional expense. Instead, I discovered that I could transfer all of the stock certificates to a local brokerage house which was more than happy to divide the account amongst the eight beneficiaries free of charge.
While it is natural to think of legal solutions to various problems, sometimes the practical solution is the best strategy. It is important that you have an attorney who can see the big picture and can find solutions that are simple and inexpensive rather than being preoccupied with showing off what he or she learned in law school.