Why Estate Planning is not something you should postpone - Interview with Jonathan Day
Sharon: Good morning, everyone. This is Sharon with Network in Action, and I'm here today with Jonathan Day with Elevate Estate Planning. Hi, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Hi Sharon, how's it going?
Sharon: It's good. I'm looking forward to our conversation today.
Jonathan: Thanks me as well.
Sharon: Yeah. Good, good. Well, to kick us off, I'd love to hear how you got into estate planning and yeah, how you ended up here.
Jonathan: Sure. Yeah, no, absolutely. I think for most people kind of their why and how they wind up what they're doing is always pretty interesting. And for myself, my story kind of starts with my grandfather, who was a very fascinating man, lived an interesting life. World War Two veteran, was a midway, grew up on an apple orchard, rode a horse to school, and then by the time he died, had a smartphone know. So huge changes during his lifetime. But, kind of how he inspired me to Estate Planning was accidental, I guess you could say on his part. But, when I was in law school, he became incapacitated and my grandfather was himself an attorney and a judge. And so, you know, lived a long life like he was ninety four, ninety five at the time, still living at home, still independent, very sharp. But, you have those kind of things go where was changing a light bulb and kind of slipped off the bed as he was changing it hurt his hip and was taken off his blood thinners to run some tests, had a stroke and that's kind of how he became incapacitated. But, once he did, my family found out was that he hadn't done any estate planning, which, as you can imagine, came as a shock, given that, you know, he was a lawyer. So, you know, he had all those ducks in a row. As we kind of found out, my grandmother just never wanted to talk about it.
Jonathan: So they just never got around to it. But the issue in that situation was that, it was a very kind of traditional marriage in that sense, and that my grandfather handled all the money stuff. And so when he became incapacitated, my grandmother didn't really know what to do in terms of being able to pay the mortgage and all that kind of stuff. And so, yeah, my my dad and my uncle called me and I was in law school at the time and what do we do? And I was like, well, I'm not exactly sure, but I was able to get them in touch with an Estate Planning attorney back home and he was able to kind of swoop in and save the day and help resolve the situation and just kind of witnessing that and kind of how my family went from very stressed out and scared to kind of having the issue resolved and feeling very comfortable and being in a good spot was kind of inspiring to me as a law student and kind of seeing that was trying to determine what type of law I wanted to go into. And seeing that interaction kind of inspired me to say, well, that's that's what I wanted to do. And coming into law was help people. And yeah, so seeing that interaction take place and kind of how that was able to help my family kind of drove me into Estate Planning.
Sharon: Thank you for sharing that story. I can only imagine that it has you that much more invested in the work that you do with your clients.
Sharon: Yeah. So what would be important for people to know about how you work with your clients? What that process looks like, what they could potentially expect?
Jonathan: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think for us it all kind of starts with education. And so the goal for us and preparing an Estate Plan for any prospective client is that we want them to understand what estate planning is, what it's trying to accomplish, and then the different avenues we have available to us to accomplish their unique goals based on their values, their family dynamics and that sort of thing. And so it's really our objective to provide them with that education, give them that background information for them to make an educated and informed opinion for themselves as to which which type of planning is going to help them accomplish those goals without feeling like we are kind of dictating to them what we think they need is really kind of the goal of the process. And so our meeting structure is very much formatted to deliver that information, to allow them to ask other questions about it, because it is a lot of information to be given when talking about doing a comprehensive Estate Plan, but giving them the opportunity to ask those questions, you know, get them all answered, feel like they have a good foundation of what estate planning is and what it can do before crafting that Estate Plan that's going to best fit their family.
Sharon: Awesome! And kind of to tag along with what you just said, do you have like an introductory phone call that that you do with people or... What would that first step look like for someone?
Jonathan: Absolutely. So the first step is whether it's a referral or someone who just found us online or seen us after a speech or something like that is we do kind of a ten minute introductory phone call and kind of the purpose of that call is to... You'll get to know a little bit about the prospective client, let them find out a little bit about us, about who I am and what our firm is and kind of what we do and outline for them what the rest of the process will look like. And so it starts with that 10 minute phone call. You know, at the end of that call we send out, if it seems like a good fit. We'll send out our intake forms, which is more or less a financial questionnaire and a document we refer to as our assessment of estate planning concerns and objectives, which is a checklist of sorts that gets prospective clients thinking about the different things that estate planning can accomplish that they might not think of off the top of their head, which starts to give us a framework and sort of a foundation for what an estate plan for them might look like that's going to fit their family well. Once they've gotten that completed to a completed and back to us, we'll schedule a sit down meeting in which we'll walk through those documents together.
Jonathan: We'll provide that information. That kind of talked about my previous answer in terms of outlining what documents are part of a comprehensive estate plan. What are they trying to accomplish? Why are they important? You know, what is the living will? What, what or what is living wills? What is the power of attorney? What is a will versus a trust? We might want to use one versus the other. All of that information will be conveyed in that sit down meeting as we kind of walk through their financials, because that's going to help guide us and what might be a good fit and walk through their assessment of concerns and objectives to start identifying what's important to them, as we can then begin crafting that comprehensive estate plan that's very unique to that family and their individual circumstances. From there, we give ourselves usually seven to 10 days to get everything drafted, kind of work through the final details and come in. We have what we call a signing ceremony where everything gets witnessed and notarized and executed and they walk out with their estate planning binder fully kind of, you know, legally protected from incapacity and in death. So that's that's our process. In a nutshell, I guess you could say,
Sharon: Yeah, great. Thank you just for walking me through it. It's super helpful. So let's talk about the when, because just my experience in talking with most people I know about estate planning, is it something they're they're constantly thinking about doing later and, you know, for the future, maybe in ten years. So, what how would you answer? Like, when should a prospective client start reaching out to you or an estate planner to to get started in the process?
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think we all think that we're all going to live forever. Right. And so it always seems like this type of planning can be can be pushed off. Right? It's an expense we do want to deal with right now. It's something we want to think about right now. It's uncomfortable thinking about what might happen if we're incapacitated or when we die. And so that's something that we understand any time a prospective client comes to us is that it's a a difficult conversation to have as to the winds. You know, ideally, we kind of say that any time a child turns 18, they should have something. Right. So if they're going off to college and now they're legally adults and if something happens while they're at college, some kind of medical incident, at least having a hip, a release or living will, something that could appoint their parents to still continue to get access to their medical records to make decisions if necessary, would be good. So from there on, is really a good point. But more realistically, would clients actually come to see us? We kind of say starting at thirty, buying your first house or having your first child, kind of whichever comes first or all kind of good triggering events.
Jonathan: Usually it's the children. Whenever somebody has the first child and now they're thinking about, you know, someone's going to be left behind if something happens to them and what might happen, who would I want to raise my children, who could raise my children with the same values that I have and give them the best possible life, be the best possible parents. And so that's usually kind of the triggering event for a lot of our younger clients is coming in. Not so much to think about what's going to happen to my stuff when I die, but what might happen to my children? How will they be raised? Will they be provided for in the right way? Can I structure an inheritance that might leave behind for them in a way that they're not just getting it at eighteen and and inheriting a bunch of money? Can we can we structure that over a longer period of time to ensure that it does what the parents would want it to do? And so, yeah, that's kind of that's kind of that.
Sharon: Yeah. It sounds like there's been a real shift in these last years in the mindset of when to go about estate planning. Like it's not just for people in their golden years, you know, and their retirement years.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that the thirty young family, that's kind of the starting point. That's usually whenever most people are getting their first estate plan done and then we kind of see a couple other big, big changes in life that are also good occasions for someone to come in and have a conversation with us. A common one kind of deferred is progressing literally through time as to when these events kind of happen. Divorce is also a good occasion to come in and revisit things, even if someone has an estate plan, a lot of people do what we call the "Honey, I love you plan", which is "everything I have to my to my spouse".
Jonathan: Which is usually no longer the desired outcome after divorce. And so getting that updated to update beneficiaries, making sure that we're monitoring and updating the beneficiary designations, making sure that, you know, there's no life insurance policy accidently going to an ex after a remarriage, which happens more frequently than you might expect. Just making sure that the plan, if you have one, has been updated to reflect that change in circumstances or if you haven't got one yet, especially if you have children getting one to make sure that whatever you leave behind can make it to your children, but structured in the right way that, you know, maybe don't want it to be in the exclusive control of your former spouse, depending on how that relationship is. But ensuring that it can be structured to your to your kids at the right time would be important after something like a divorce. Other times people come in might be empty nesters.
Jonathan: So maybe they had an estate plan, kind of got it done in the 30s, like we talked about with some of our young clients. But what they were planning for at that time is no longer the primary concern. And now they're thinking more about, OK, what do my adult children's personalities look like? Do we have any kids with substance abuse issues that we might not want to have know an outright distribution of cash, or do we have kids in bad marriages that we might want to structure the inheritance and some type of trust to avoid potential loss to a later divorce? These are the kind of concerns that these empty nesters might be having as they're kind of transitioning from, you know, young family to adult children, not quite to retirement age yet, not really to their senior years. But life circumstances have changed and they want to update their plan in a way that reflects those changes. And then, of course, we also have the classic, I think what most people think of, which is new retirees, people who are thinking about their legacy, thinking about kind of intergenerational transfers of wealth and providing for children or providing for grandchildren or providing for the causes they're passionate about that have meant a lot to them during their lifetime. That kind of legacy planning also has a different angle and then the planning it might do earlier in life. And so those those are kind of the, I guess you could say, the big occasions in life that the people wind up coming and having a conversation.
Sharon: Yeah, so, important and so unique. Right. To each individual. So as we come near the closing today, we started hearing personally how you got into Estate Planning. And after being in this industry for quite a long time, what do you love most about the work that you do?
Jonathan: Yeah, you know, it's I'm one of the fortunate lawyers that really loves what they do. And I think most lawyers, if you took a poll, aren't that crazy about really what they do. But for me, I think at one, it starts at kind of what inspired me in watching what happened with my grandfather, helping people, helping families, usually in either happy times and we were planning for contingencies and ensuring that children are well taken care of. And the peace of mind that that provides, I can almost always see I can get everything signed and done. A sense of relief come over clients faces as they're leaving my office with their completed coverage of the state plans and just feeling good that they knew that was something I needed to do and they got to taking care of. So. So getting to help people in that way is great. Yeah, no, it's very I'm very fortunate to get to be able to help people do something so important and provide the peace of mind that comes with it for sure.
Sharon: Yeah. Great. Good. Well, so if somebody watches this video and it triggers. Oh my gosh I, I'm in one of those scenarios. I want to have a conversation. What's the best way for them to reach out to you.
Jonathan: Yeah. Our office line, the primary line is 303-566-0614 or if you want to contact me directly, my email is email@example.com.
Sharon: Great. Thank you, Jonathan. It was great talking to you today.
Jonathan: Ofcourse, you too, Sharon.
Sharon: Yeah. Take good care.