Talking people out of hiring us!

I know that is a strange title, but I pride myself on the fact that we are a different law firm.  We deal with a very unique set of clients and we do things differently.  We as attorneys in this firm take our oath of fiduciary duty very seriously.  That duty requires us to put our clients needs above ours and do what is truly in their best interest.

I know that attorneys do not have a great reputation.   Those with a lack of integrity and those with the ability and need to stir up trouble in order to make a living pretty much deserve such a reputation.  My hope is to change that at least for our firm.

Twice yesterday people came in wanting something very specific.  Ethically, I could have done what they wanted and been OK.  However, my heart knew that what they were wanting was not what was in their best interest.  One case was a couple coming in for estate planning.  They came in stating they needed a trust.  I could have done a trust for them but I could achieve the very same results with a much simpler and cheaper plan.  They had no issue with their children getting the money and liked their son-in-law and daughter-in-law and didn’t mind them getting the inheritance.  They owned a home and some bank accounts.  Doing a Life Estate Deed on their home and Payable on Death designation on their bank accounts does what they needed done. We avoided probate and protected the real estate from Medicaid in the future which is something the revocable living trust will not do.  Needless to say, they were happy and the will talk could about the firm.

Second, a client that we had just done what I mention above called to say that he wanted to make a slight change to the Powers of Attorney.  He and his wife discussed it and they want one of each of their children to jointly be the back up agent under the POA rather than just their one child.  I could have done this and been OK ethically.  However, my experience as an elder law attorney tells me this could cause problems in the future and cost them money.  Therefore, I ask him if he really wanted two people to have to sign every check and document?  I also brought up that since this would only come into play after the death of their spouse, I asked him “what if your wife’s son doesn’t agree with how you treated his mom during her final days?  He is now the one taking care of your business.”.  He was quite for a second and said, “hmm, I hadn’t thought of that”.  Exactly! He decided to NOT change his documents.  Dang, I lost another fee!!!!  But, I slept really good last night knowing I did what was in my client’s best interest.

This is my complaint with Legal Zoom and other “legal help at your specific direction” companies.  You haven’t been through all of this before. We have.  We know what could happen.  I see it as my job (and justification for my fee) to take what you say into consideration but then make sure you are making a good choice by giving you all the options and the pros and cons of each.  If your attorney doesn’t do this with you, you may need a new attorney.  If your attorney does what you say “at your specific direction”, you might as well save some money and use Legal Zoom.  Feel free to call our office at any time.  We still do free initial consultations, and those consultations are scheduled for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Todd Whatley is the founding partner of the Elder Law Practice of Whatley and Elrod, and the Managing Attorney of the Springdale, Arkansas offices, serving the legal needs of the elderly in Northwest Arkansas, including Springdale and Fayetteville.  Todd Whatley has been working in elder law field since 2000, and became Arkansas’ second certified Elder Law Attorney in 2006.  He is on the Board of Directors of the National Elder Law Foundation.  The Elder Law Practice of Whatley and Elrod is focused on the legal needs of the elderly and their families.  Todd Whatley is a regular speaker for Continuing Legal Education seminars teaching other attorneys about elder law.

About the Elder Law Practice of Whatley and Elrod:

Elder Law Practice of Whatley and Elrod is Arkansas’ largest Elder Law practice, with five locations through the state of Arkansas, in Bryant, Fort Smith, Springdale, and Bentonville and Hot Springs Village.  Todd Whatley and Justin Elrod, the managing partners at the Elder Law Practice, are committed to serving the legal needs of the elderly in Arkansas.  Their services include estate planning, creating wills, trusts, avoiding probate, special needs trusts, Medicare, Medicaid, and more.  The Elder Law Practice of Whatley and Elrod also focuses in VA benefits, assisting Arkansas veterans in getting the benefits and assistance that they have earned during their time spent serving our country.

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