Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow . . .

lightbulbYesterday I read an interview in the April 2016 issue of WealthCounsel Quarterly with Neel Shah, a business and estate planning attorney in Monroe, New Jersey. The last interview question was of particular interest to me, because occasionally I find myself wondering whether I’m simply selling something when I encourage people to do their estate and business planning, preferably with me. By simply selling I mean selling something they don’t really need. I know better, of course. I’ve seen too many cases where what should have been planned hadn’t been, and people got hurt, loved ones left in a lurch as a consequence.

And I’m not alone, I discovered–yet again. In response to the question, “Can you point to a particular experience that has changed the way you approach your practice?” Shah told the story of a client who had come to him to do some simple will planning. He was young, in the prime of his life. He had some 20 interconnected businesses. They all seemed to be doing well, and the client, Shah says, “looked like he was on top of the world.”

Less than six weeks later, the client was dead–before Shah and he had been able to do much planning. It was then that Shaw discovered that all was not well. The client’s businesses were in hock–for those unfamiliar with the term, they were in debt up to their gills. His personal life wasn’t much better. He had a child from a short-term relationship and other family members he wanted to provide for with his wealth, but in short order his “empire” came crashing down, his dreams for others unfulfilled. As Shaw reports:

“What I saw in that client was the prototypical business owner who simple couldn’t make time to get his planning in order. He had told me that he wanted to provide for his nieces and nephews and he believed–and all evidence supported–that he had many more years ahead of him. His example showed me just how quickly and dramatically things can change.

“By seeing through that client how fragile life can be, now I don’t hesitate to grab a client by the collar and shake them into reality. I also don’t feel like I’m ‘selling’ anything anymore. I feel a lot more like an emergency room physician, telling clients that their business is in dire need of help. After seeing what happens when clients drag their feet, I now have a greater sense of urgency on their behalf. It has made me more passionate in my conversations with clients, and more aggressive in advocating the importance of moving ahead to get good planning in place.”

Somewhere else on this site, I write that the cost of planning is greatly outweighed by the cost of not planning. This story vividly illustrates that point. I could tell more. Want to hear them?

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