Have you ever met someone and instantly wanted to cheerlead for everything they do? That’s how I feel about my recent client Heather Reynolds, Estate Attorney. I know what you’re thinking…estate planning; what’s the big deal? Well, Heather isn’t your average Estate Attorney, or, I’m guessing, your average anything!
Why am I so excited? I had a chance to hear Heather speak about her work last week, and it was a real eye opener. Certainly her qualifications and background are impressive, her demeanor is approachable, and her professionalism is unquestionable. But from what I can tell she has a super power that trumps all of that. Compassion. Let me rephrase that. Compassion on steroids.
Do you know how important a few key legal documents are in preventing major calamities for a person or family? Heather does. But she also knows that not everyone can afford an estate attorney, and not everyone has access to the information they need to translate legal jargon into something other than the alien language that it is. Most people would take that knowledge and file it somewhere in the back of their minds, to be referenced as one of the many injustices in the world, and go on their merry way. Not Heather; she created a solution.
Heather created a new website – YourLegacyLives.com. She made educational videos. She provided free access to three key legal documents, and a slew of others at an incredibly reduced rate, all including detailed instructions. Heather wants every Californian to have an estate plan. Heather is rocking my world!
After hearing her speak, and while preparing for our portrait session, I spent time looking through the new site. And I got it. I really got it. Because, honestly, while I knew I needed to do some estate planning paperwork (it’s been on my list since last January….oops) I did not know about some of the forms she mentioned, which are beyond essential. I can think of countless people who can benefit from this resource. And when I say countless, I mean likely everyone I know under the age of 40 and whole lot of the rest of us.
So, if you can afford to pay someone to do your estate plan, call Heather. She is warm & kind, and she brings ease to an uneasy task. If you can’t afford to pay, or know someone who can’t, visit her new site Your Legacy Lives, and start the process for free, and continue at fraction of the cost.
I would keep gushing, instead as a part of our mini interview series, I want you to hear directly from Heather. Here goes:
1. What is an estate plan and how do you help your clients create one? An estate plan acts like a parachute — everyone needs a parachute to jump out of an airplane and you won’t know if it works until it’s too late. An estate plan is a set of documents that “saves us” like a parachute when we become incapacitated or pass away — so we’ll all need one at some point — we just don’t always have advanced notice.
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The estate plan documents save us from the default California laws that “protect” us from our failure to plan. California law assumes that our families cannot be trusted to handle our financial or health affairs without court supervision. California’s plan for us is called Probate Court. I’ve never met someone who liked the default plan except the judges and lawyers who get paid well to supervise a family’s finances and healthcare decisions.
Most of us would prefer a private plan — one that does not involve judges and lawyers when it comes to taking care of our loved ones. That private estate plan involves your signing several documents that opt out of the court process and trusting your loved ones to follow your wishes privately rather than spending the rest of your life in court asking permission to make decisions. It takes months to obtain court orders, which can be a serious problem if rent, mortgages and electric bills have to be paid on time or health decisions need to made immediately.
2. Why did you decide to create YourLegacyLives.com? What is your vision for the site? Almost daily, I see the horror stories of an overpopulated probate court, delays and unnecessary expenses on families in crisis. Having grown up in a family of four children and a single mom, I noticed that there were few wealthy families in the probate court. So I interviewed over a dozen families to find out what barriers stop them from creating the documents that would allow them to opt out of the probate process. I discovered the following barriers:
1. they didn’t know what probate would be like
2. they didn’t know the cost of hiring a lawyer in the first place
3. they didn’t have the time it takes to prepare the documents
4. they were frustrated by the “legalese” of the documents
5. they were emotionally uncomfortable discussing the issues involved
No wonder 70% of Americans don’t have any documents in place!
So I set out to create a website that would overcome all of these barriers so that every family in California could have an estate plan — so we can write our own plan rather than letting the State of California write it for us. New clients are often surprised when I tell them what would actually happen at the time of their death or incapacity if the process was left up to the state.
YourLegacyLives.com creates a step-by-step process that educates Californians how to create their own documents from my high quality templates — the same templates I use today in my law firm and have tested for over 15 years. The process requires only about 2 hours per week for 3 to 4 weeks to complete at a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer. The videos explain each document, paragraph by paragraph, so it’s easy to understand. There is even a free assessment to determine whether a simple will or a living trust is most appropriate for their situation. This online approach works great for a single person or family with traditional structures and wishes.
Not only can customers save their documents to their computer for future use and changes, they can print, sign and notarize them whenever they want. Most online systems never give this kind of control to the customer.
3. What is one important legal document that everyone needs and no one knows about? The HIPAA release is one of the most critical documents for any estate plan. HIPAA is the privacy law that fines health care providers $100,000 if they share health information with anyone other than the patient. That means they can’t tell you what is wrong with your spouse or your 18 year old child in the emergency room unless you obtain a court order waiving HIPAA. If your spouse or adult child waives HIPAA prior to incapacity, then the healthcare providers will be able to share information with you. This comes as quite a shock to most of my clients. It’s usually too late to get a HIPAA waiver by the time they come to me. It’s one of the free documents on the website because everyone should have this document.
Now, this estate planning business is serious stuff. So to lighten things up a bit, I am thrilled to be able to share a little taste of Heather’s sense of humor. Check out her video, “No Lawyers in Heaven”:
Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got to get onto Your Legacy Lives and print out my HIPAA release!! See you there…please use this link so she’ll know that I sent you: http://www.yourlegacylives.com/nrothstein
PS. Believe it or not, that’s not all there is to share about this powerful woman. She’s involved in at least one other amazing project that I will save for another time. But, to keep you guessing and in suspense, I’ll just give you one hint: MERMAIDS. Stay tuned!