When I went to law school, I knew that I wanted to practice estate planning. I usually joke that the reason it is unusual for law students to focus upon this subject matter is because there are no TV shows about estate planning attorneys: it’s not the flashiest area of the law. Most people’s impressions of the law and lawyers are shaped by the entertainment industry which focuses on litigation or criminal law which is adversarial by nature.
Most people realize that the entertainment industry is more interested in creating drama and interesting story lines rather than accurate portrayals of the legal profession. In fact, when preparing for the Bar Exam, we were actually advised to watch “any TV show or movie about lawyers” as a way to study legal ethics by identifying all the ethical or procedural rules that are constantly broken by the characters. This proved to be an effective study method!
Nevertheless, our popular culture strongly influences the way people view lawyers and their expectations of the law. As a result, many people might feel uncomfortable with the idea of visiting an attorney for estate planning. Not only are they already hesitant to discuss topics such as death, disability, and taxes, they are not sure if they will be able to get along with an aloof and abrasive attorney. However, most people are presently surprised at the process as estate planning is a very different area of the law than what some expect.
Unlike the adversarial litigation attorney from a favorite TV show, an estate planning attorney acts as the clients’ trusted adviser, helps the clients identify their concerns, and develops a plan that accomplishes their goals and navigates the complex law. Rather than a stuffy corporate environment, most estate planning attorneys strive to create a warm and friendly setting that makes clients comfortable to discuss these otherwise uncomfortable topics. Most clients find the process to be a pleasant surprise. When the plan is complete, most clients express a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that a great weight has been lifted off their shoulders.
There are probably good reasons why there are no TV shows about estate planning attorneys: no drama, no scandal, and no legal ethics rules being broken on a regular basis. These same reasons, however, make estate planning accessible, comfortable, and rewarding, not only for the clients but also for the attorney.
Most people realize that they should address their estate planning but are hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons. It is important to know that the process is not nearly as intimidating as one might think. A qualified estate planning attorney can act as a trusted adviser to help clients navigate the law and plan for their loved ones.