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  • Writer's pictureMaria Alejandra Cova Terán

How An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You plan for Life and Create a Conscious Legacy

Sharon: Hello, everyone, this is Sharon Heller with Network in Action, and I'm here today with Anastasia Fainberg. Hi, Anastasia.

Anastasia: Hi.

Sharon: Good to see you today.

Anastasia: Me too.

Sharon: Anastasia has her own law firm, Fainberg Law Group. And Anastasia, why don't you talk a little bit about the type of law that you do and just a little bit about your specific area of expertise. I know there is a lot of areas, but the one we're kind of focusing in on today.

Anastasia: Definitely. So starting this month, my law firm is actually going to be called Legacy Law Group Colorado, so we'll be able to serve clients across Colorado and not just in the Denver area. We're going to have another location in the Fort Collins area, which is pretty exciting news.

Anastasia: And just the way you can gather from the name, we're all about legacy planning. So we work with families, business owners, individuals, on estate planning. And what that entails is elder law, basic estate planning, wills and trusts, kids protection planning, incapacity planning, end of life planning. So we're focusing on a very comprehensive state plan for you, your loved ones, your family, your business, and everything that you may own.

Sharon: Awesome. And it's so important in this whole area. I've just been diving into it with my own family over the last couple of years. When I think about all those different areas that you just mentioned, one of the things that comes to mind is just paperwork, like there's such intense documentation and paperwork, I think of. But I know your role is so much more than that. So can you talk a little bit about how you work with families and why it's so much more actually than just the paperwork?

Anastasia: Yes, certainly. So what I actually see a lot, and my partner and I have a very different view on this, is that in traditional estate planning, it's really about focusing on those documents that most people don't actually read, just sign them, they put them on their shelf and they think that somehow this is going to protect their family if something happens to them.

Anastasia: But the most important aspect of estate planning is actually the ongoing legal guidance that you get from a "live" person such as myself or my partner or another attorney at the firm. And what I mean by that is that we're relationship-based because, if you just get a set of documents and you don't know what they say, and you just think that somehow someone is going to figure out what to do with them at some point, well, almost always I see that that fails.

Anastasia: The most important point is that once you sign your estate plan, none of us are going to die the next day, hopefully. So it's a proactive approach to just staying organized and proactive throughout your lifetime, so that you keep updating it and you get ongoing legal guidance from an attorney to make sure that your trust, or your will, or your powers of attorney, or all of your documents, are still up to date, that they say the things that you want them to say, that each person named has the copy, that you know easily who to contact in case of emergency.

Anastasia: All of those things that are like an action plan versus just a stack of documents is what really matters in estate planning. And that's why at our firm, we actually offer all of our clients complimentary lifetime memberships, meaning that if you get an estate plan done with us, you're going to be on a lifetime membership every three years, we're going to sit down with you, and discuss your plan free of charge, and see if we need to update anything, or if anything has changed.

Anastasia: During that process, we actually want to meet your family members, we want to meet your kids as they're growing up so that they know exactly what to do during the time of transition. Because it's a very stressful time when you have grief and then you add all of those, administrative court-related tasks on top of somebody. That can really break a family and I've seen that happen. And so that's why we just try to make that transition a lot easier and we kind of stay with you and we work you up to that point.

Sharon: Well, I love hearing that. I think it's so important that continue review, and really being in that relationship with the family. It's incredible, I love that.

Anastasia: Thank you.

Sharon: And so I'm thinking about most people I know, think about estate planning as something to do in the later phases of life, maybe once I'm getting ready to retire, or I'll start thinking about my estate planning. And from your perspective and what you've seen, I guess the good, the bad and the ugly, when would you recommend people get started in the process and why?

Anastasia: So I always say the good time is now, there is really no excuse to wait. And what we've seen, especially now with COVID, is that younger, healthier people are being affected by things, such as incapacity and unfortunately, sometimes death. So, estate planning is not something that you have to think about, "once I'm over one hundred thousand worth of assets, then I can do it" or "once I'm over a certain age."

Anastasia: Because life is unpredictable and we don't know where we're going to be tomorrow. So even if you don't have a lot of assets that are going to be stuck in probate, most of us have kids and most of us can get incapacitated at some point. So incapacity and basic kids protection planning, is what we do for anyone. Doesn't really matter what you own, doesn't really matter how old you are. It's just the basic provisions of who's going to take care of my kids if I'm no longer there. And what if I get into a car accident? Who's going to be able to manage my life for me while I'm unable to? So those are the basic things that I think everyone should have.

Anastasia: And then in terms of the more complex trusts and things like that, that's what we're going to look at, your assets, and the level of protection that you want to build in. And then, that can be updated throughout your lifetime, too. Because I have clients who have started out with just one family home and now they have 10 rental properties, and good for them but we started with just a foundational basic estate plan for them, and then as their kids grew older and they acquired all of these properties, we made sure that we've incorporated all of that into a comprehensive plan.

Anastasia: So the short answer to that is, if you were to die or get incapacitated right now, what would really happen? And the sad thing is that most people don't realize that their family is going to have to be stuck in important conflict unless they have a set of very important documents in place. And so, yeah, the time to act is now. And everybody should have an estate plan, at least the foundational one.

Sharon: Yeah, thank you. And so with that being said, and this might lead to the next question, because it sounds like there's like a lot of layers to estate planning. What is the most important starting point for anyone?

Anastasia: So the starting point, and that's how we actually kind of start the process at the firm, is for you and your loved ones to get organized. And what that means is that you sit down, and either take our form, or you can just create an Excel spreadsheet on your computer and say, "OK, here is everything that I own, here's my house, my mortgage, my bank accounts, my IRAs, my life insurance, my custodial accounts". Anything listed out so that it's all in one place because nowadays things get lost. We don't get paper statements, it's all face ID, touch ID. Nobody knows what each other owns, even couples.

Anastasia: So the first important step is just to get organized and see, this is what I have and you can do it with one of our forms or on your own, and then from there is to have that inventory of assets reviewed by an attorney, to be able to see what would be a good plan for you based off of your assets. Is it something that you need to plan for, for asset protection? Is it like long term care for the more elderly people who are trying to think for a plan for Medicaid? And things like that.

Anastasia: So really just a starting point is just to get organized and get all of your assets on one piece of paper, so that it's easy for whoever is going to be taking over, to see what it is you own and what to do with that basically.

Sharon: Great tip. I mean, it seems so basic and obvious, but I didn't know you were going to say that, so I'm glad you did. Because that's something any of us can do, is just start to collect our information and organize it.

Anastasia: And then another thing also to get started, is to watch like a free webinar or something like that on estate planning. And we put those out all the time on our Facebook page, there's going to be another live webinar, we have them every month. People find great value in that because in there you can actually learn about, do I need a will? Do I need a trust? Do I need a power of attorney? What's the difference between all of those things? And so getting that education on a foundational level, really helps a lot of people kind of take the first step and realize what it is they need. So I guess two things would be of equal importance.

Sharon: Yeah, I think that education piece, I mean, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I really didn't know the difference between a will and a trust, until I was sitting down with an attorney working on my estate planning. And it would have been great to have that knowledge ahead of time because, I was sitting there just trying to understand everything, much less like figure out my own circumstances and planning.

Anastasia: Yeah, definitely. And that's how we kind of pre-vet all of our clients. The most of my people come in through a webinar that they've watched, or a live presentation that they've attended, because then it saves me some time, it saves them a lot of confusion, and we kind of both know where to start.

Sharon: Right, right. Well, as we start to wrap up here, I'm wondering if you can kind of complete with, what's a good mindset to have? Because I think for a lot of people, it feels like really morbid to be thinking about all of these end of life details. And I know there are some, I remember doing some of these more challenging questions. Like if I was to pass, who would care for my daughter and who's the first person? The second person. Third person. You know, it's it's something to really look at all those situations. So how can you frame that in a really positive mindset so it doesn't feel so morbid and depressing?

Anastasia: Yeah, and I totally get it. And I was the same way. So I actually at my firm I don't call it planning for death, I call it planning for life because we view it as an ongoing process that was to get very organized. And it's about leaving a conscious legacy today.

Anastasia: So, unfortunately, a lot of even the bigger inheritances and all of that, just get dissipated with lack of planning. And we all work so hard to build something that we can leave behind for our kids. And it's not just financials, it's the relationships, it's the values, it's the insights, it's everything that you can leave behind to leave that mark of your conscious legacy on your loved ones, on the charities, on whatever organizations you may belong to.

Anastasia: So I think about it as a kind of proactive planning for your whole lifetime, and not just who's going to take care of me if I die? Who's going to take care of my kids? It's about getting financially organized, putting a plan together that's going to protect your loved ones, and then building in that asset protection so that everything that you've worked so hard to build doesn't just get dissipated within a generation or two, so that you're really leaving a mark and not just a mess behind.

Sharon: I love that perspective, Anastasia. I think you said "leaving a conscious legacy". So let's end with that, I think that's a good note to end on. Thank you so much for your time today. It was very enlightening conversation and I hope a lot of people watch this video to learn more about you and your firm and the quality work that you do. So thank you.

Anastasia: Thank you so much. My pleasure.

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