Do NOT Take This Estate Planning Advice!


“Please, please, please. I beg you. Don’t take estate planning advice from your banker, financial advisor, insurance broker, mortgage broker, escrow agent, real estate agent, or your friends. I can’t tell you how much terrible, ill-informed advice there is out there that results in harm. Let these other professionals do what they do best and help you in their specific specialties. And find an estate planner, make them a member of your team, and pay them. An excellent family attorney and counselor is worth their weight in gold.”

April 1, 2017 Facebook Post by Martha Hartney


Don’t forget your cab driver and anyone on social media

Add Nurse, social worker, business office manager and discharge nurse

A few days ago, I met with a family who had taken legal advice from a banker. This resulted in the family completely screwing up an estate in a way that cannot be fixed and may cost the family tens of thousands of dollars. The banker, I’m sure, thought she was doing the family a favor.

A family came to me to discuss their planning after the husband had spent months and months researching estate planning on the internet. He felt so strongly that he could do it himself that they left without engaging. When I reached out recently, I found that they still do not have a plan in place.

An elderly man decided that he didn’t want to get a plan in place because he wanted absolute control over his financial life. He subsequently experienced rapid-onset dementia and is now a ward of the state. He didn’t want to plan because he thought he’d end up at someone else’s mercy. Which is exactly what happened.

A financial advisor for a prominent wealth management firm told his clients not to spend the several thousand dollars an estate plan costs because he thought it was too much—and this was an advisor who was raking in tens of thousands of dollars on his clients’ investments every year.

One mom came in, after researching estate planning extensively on the internet, had herself completely tied in knots about what a trust is, thoroughly off base as to taxation, and throwing estate planning jargon around hoping to appear more experienced, and less vulnerable, than she was. We spent a great deal of time unraveling her misconceptions.

I even recently heard of a local “estate planner” tell a family I met with that there was no way to avoid probate so they shouldn’t even try. (This last tidbit is tantamount to malpractice—probate is avoidable and easily so).

This is just a thimble-full of the terrible advice I’ve heard over the years. It boggles my mind that people would rather take legal advice from a discharge nurse than visit a lawyer.

Why on earth is that? What are you afraid of?

That a lawyer will charge you $300 an hour and you have no idea how much an estate plan will cost you?

That a lawyer will sell you something you don’t need?

That you don’t know enough to protect yourself from an unscrupulous lawyer?

That you’ll have to make uncomfortable decisions you’d rather not deal with?

That it’ll be dull and boring?

That you’d rather have a root canal?

That you’ll look ignorant, stupid, inexperienced in front of your attorney?

That you might have an argument with your spouse because they are adamant that estate planning is unnecessary?

Or maybe it’s the very simple fear of facing the eventuality of your death?

I get it. I was a consumer of legal services before I was a lawyer. I had two estate plans done long before even going to law school. I remember being completely clueless as to how to get our plan done. My then-husband and I even took what appeared to be a “killer deal” from a family friend to do our plan for $100 an hour (he wanted to learn planning and was offering us this steal of a price to cut his teeth on us). $6,000 wasted dollars later, we threw away the plan he dropped off to our house in a manila envelope.

Our mistake then, and many people’s mistake now, is not getting a qualified and reputable estate planning attorney on our team. We had insurance agents, financial advisors, investment brokers, and accountants. But we did not spend the time to find a lawyer we liked and could trust. And we too were worried about “the Bill”!

I made the mistakes you’re afraid making. My second plan was better, but still not right. Another $3,000 wasted. I finally got my own estate plan in place, the right way, when I became an estate planner myself.

So that’s how we built this firm—to serve people like me, people like you who don’t know where to begin or how to consume legal services.

We make it easy. We make it educational. We make it predictable. We even make it fun.

As anything in life—if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Take it seriously. Find a lawyer. Get it done. Let it go.

And STOP taking legal advice from the Uber driver!







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About the Author - Martha Hartney

A later-in-life attorney, Martha Hartney opened the practice in 2010 to serve the people she loves because she is committed to helping moms and dads bring their greatest gifts into parenting fearlessly and with joy and making sure children are completely cared for if something happens to their parents.

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