Explaining to you how we’re different requires an explanation of what the “traditional” experience with a lawyer is like. If you’ve worked with a lawyer to prepare estate planning documents for you in the past, this will sound familiar.
During the traditional experience, you’ll go in and meet with a lawyer who will often make things seem very complicated and confusing.
You’ll have a good idea your lawyer is smart and seems to know what they are doing, so you’ll nod and answer questions, as if you understand everything. Because you want to do the right thing for your family, you’ll have the lawyer prepare documents for you and you’ll sign the documents, feeling relieved you got THAT taken care of.
You’ll take your fancy estate planning binder full of documents home, stick it on a shelf or in a drawer, mark estate planning off your checklist as DONE, feel good and never think about it again.
You might remember your lawyer said something about moving your bank accounts into your trust so you’ll go to the bank, forget what you were supposed to do, call your lawyer’s office, get a voicemail, have to leave the bank and wait for a call back, (which takes several hours at least and sometimes days) and by that time, you’ll have gotten busy with other things and never get around to moving that bank account.
A few weeks later, you’ll get a bill in the mail for$67.50 for 15 minutes of your lawyer’s time for answering a couple of questions. You’ll make a mental note– don’t call lawyer ever again.
Several years later, you’ll refinance your house or sell it and buy a new one and forget that you were supposed to let your lawyer know or make sure you kept the title in the name of the trust.
Your children will get older, making your guardianship choices outdated, but you don’t want to call your lawyer because you know you’ll get a bill in the mail two weeks later.
You’ll hear something about a change in the tax law, but you figure you’d surely get a letter in the mail from your lawyer if it was something that affected you, so you don’t worry about it. And, you’d have to dig through boxes to find your trust documents so you could remember your lawyer’s name and find her contact information. Who has time for that?
It’s not until you become incapacitated or die and your family finds the binder you stuck up on a shelf several years before and never looked at again, that they’ll realize your plan is so outdated that it has nothing to do with your life, your assets and the law.
Your family is at a loss. They don’t know where to turn or what to do, so they contact the same lawyer you used to prepare the documents, who is as happy as can be to probate your assets, which never made it into the trust.
Because not too long ago, it happened to my family and to my business and I swore it would never happen to my clients when I created my own firm. And since then, I have seen countless clients come in to see me who have had this exact experience.
What makes our firm different is that we were built with the needs of growing families in mind. We understand you are BUSY, you are growing, you are planning for a life of prosperity and you value ease, convenience and efficiency. You are raising children, and caring for elderly parents, while also working hard to build your own nest egg for a lifetime of support. You want to know you’ve made the best decisions for your family and that your plan will work when your loved ones need it most. You want to make sure your minor children would be raised by the people you choose, and never by anyone you wouldn’t want, and that your teens and adult children are properly prepared to care for you and what you leave behind.
You want to feel confident that you’ve made the right choices, and handled everything so that you aren’t leaving behind a mess, when something happens.
That is our focus as well. We’ve developed unique systems to give you the same access to a PersonalFamily Lawyer® as was previously only available to the super-wealthy, so you can have the guidance you need to build and maintain a life of prosperity and wealth. And, to keep your family out of court and out of conflict, which is the greatest risk to the people you love and all you have created, even if you’ve already worked with a traditional lawyer or created documents online.
We encourage communication with our clients. In fact, we’ve thrown out the time clocks so you never have to be afraid to call with a quick question. Most of the work we do is billed on a flat-fee basis, agreed to in advance, so there are never any surprises.
We have a whole team to serve you. When you call our office to ask your quick question, you won’t have to wait hours or days for a phone call back. You’ll get your question answered, right away. And, if you need to schedule a more in-depth legal or strategic call with your Personal Family Lawyer®,a call will be scheduled when you're both available and ready for the call so we can make the very best use of your time and not waste your time by leaving voicemail after voicemail back and forth.
And, we ensure the most important details of your planning are followed through on and your plan continues to work throughout your lifetime.
We have a “funding coordinator” to ensure your assets are owned the right way throughout your lifetime and none of your assets will end up going through a long, expensive court process or being lost to the state because they were missed after your death.
We’ve created unique membership programs to keep your plan up to date year in and year out as well as give you access to our Trusted Team of Legal Experts for guidance on ANY legal or financial matter. One day you will need a lawyer. I don’t know why and I don’t know when, but when you do, you will be grateful you can call on us and we’ll be here to advise you or get you out of a jam.
We look forward to seeing you and caring for your family soon!
PS – if you think this all sounds expensive, well, you are right and you’re wrong. I can guarantee you that if you qualify to meet with a Personal Family Lawyer®, that planning is substantially less costly than it would be for your family if you became incapacitated or die with a plan that doesn’t work or if you don’t have a plan in place at all. And,I’ve never had a single family who believed in this kind of planning and wanted to put it in place for their loved ones leave my office because they couldn’t afford it. We’ve made creative financing available to our clients because we know that this planning is the foundation for a life of success!
Myrna Arroyo graduated from Tulane University with an MBA/JD in May of 1995. She practiced at several large law firms and has extensive business experience as a lawyer and entrepreneur in the fields of travel, marketing, and law.
She currently focuses her law practice on helping families and business owners with estate planning and acts as virtual general counsel for several small business clients in Baton Rouge, LA.
I began my career at a big law firm in New Orleans. Pretty much as soon as I got there, I was unhappy because there was a huge disconnect between what I had dreamed about when I went to law school and the reality of being a lawyer. I had dreamed about going to law school and coming out and making a difference in people’s lives, but in reality, practice in a law firm was totally transactional and didn’t truly serve our clients.
Here’s what I mean …
First of all, everything we did was billed on an hourly basis. And, as you can imagine at more than $400/hour, my clients wanted me to do everything as quickly as possible with as little communication as possible. They didn’t want to talk about their families and they were afraid to call when they had changes in their lives or questions about their businesses because they didn’t know how much that call would cost them and whether it was worth it.
As a result, often they would have life changes, such as a new baby, a divorce, a new property purchase, or a new business started, but I wouldn’t hear about it because they didn’t want to pay to tell me. And, that meant that their plan was destined to fail when their family needed it most because it would be out of date pretty quickly after we created it.
They would leave the office with their fancy binder of estate planning documents, go to the bank because I had told them to change the name of their bank account to transfer their account into their plan and then they’d forget what I said, and call the office, only to get my voicemail, and leave the bank without having transferred the account and then it would never happen.
This is likely what happened to the father-in-law of one of my colleagues. He died when she was in law school and even though he had spent $3,000 on an estate plan, after his death, she and her family were stuck dealing with his ex-wife and the probate court, even though that’s exactly why he had spent the money to do his estate planning, to keep them from having to deal w his ex-wife or the the courts.
She thought for sure his lawyer must have committed malpractice, but then after she went to work at one of the best law firms in the country and saw that they did it exactly the same way, and that most firms did.
What she found out is that it wasn’t malpractice at all, it was common practice.What I noticed when I was at the big firm is that clients would come in, we’d prepare some documents for them, they’d sign the documents (most often not having a clear sense of what they were signing) and then take the documents, stick them in a drawer and not look at them again.
That’s just what the typical estate planning experience had become. And I knew my clients’ plans would fail as a result.
There was nothing abnormal about it, but it didn’t feel right to me. We didn’t have a mechanism for following up with our clients, making sure their assets were titled properly, or communicating regularly to make sure their plans continued to work throughout life.
So, I thought long and hard about whether I could change the way things were done at the firm and I was so disillusioned with the process, I gave up practicing law altogether for a while – that’s how unhappy I was.
I opened this new firm with the idea of bringing back the Personal Family Lawyer relationship - where initial planning is just the beginning of the relationship and we’re focused on putting in place a plan we know we will work for you and the people you love.
So, here are some of the things we do differently based on my experience with the traditional model of estate planning.
First of all – nothing we do is billed on an hourly basis. Everything we do is billed flat fee, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. You’ll know exactly what it will cost to work with us, after we’ve gotten clear about what you want, and you’ll even be able to choose your own fee. Then, after the initial planning process, we have options so that you can ensure your plan stays up to date throughout your life, and again you’ll know exactly what that costs and choose your own fee there.
Second – I have a team of people here to support you. That means, if you are at the bank and call our office to get a quick answer about how to title an account, you don’t have to leave the bank and return on another day because there was no one available to answer your question for hours or days. You’ll be able to speak to someone to get your questions answered right away. And, if you need to speak with me about something that my team cannot answer, we’ll get a call scheduled on my calendar so that I can be prepared and you can be prepared and we won’t waste your time playing phone tag.
Third – we see planning as just the beginning of the relationship whereas in the past the plan was viewed as a one-time transactional event.
Once you sign your planning documents, that is when the relationship really begins. At no additional charge, we review your plan at least every three years. And, we have two levels of membership programs that almost all of our clients participate in – either the gold program which provides you with a yearly plan review and unlimited changes to your plan or the gold plus program that includes an annual meeting with your attorney, CPA and financial advisor, plus ongoing legal guidance throughout the year.
Finally, we don’t just focus on passing on your financial assets, but your whole family wealth. When my colleague’s dad died, he left behind a little money, but more important to her, especially because the money was gone quickly, he left her a voicemail on her phone. It said “Lex, it’s your dad. Call me back.” And she listened to that voicemail all the time. Until the day it got deleted accidentally. She was devastated. That’s why we created a process and include it in every plan where we guide you to pass on more than your money, but also your intellectual, spiritual and human assets. We include that with every plan and our clients and their families love having that as part of their plan.
These are just a few of the things that make our firm different. We’re the best fit for people who don’t just want to leave their family a set of documents that may or may not work, but instead want to use the estate planning process to pass on a legacy of love and care and ease. And keep their family out of court and out of conflict.
On a personal note, I got into estate planning in the first place because of what happened when my grandfather passed away when I was about 10 years old. Because he didn’t leave a plan, when he died, it tore our family apart. My mom and her 6 siblings were in and out of court for almost 30 years to settle a modest estate, and to this day one side of the family doesn’t speak to the other.
I believe that proper estate planning is something that you do for the people you love the most. You won’t be the one to benefit from the plan we are going to design for you today – the people who will benefit are the people you love the most who will be dealing with things after you’re gone.
Myrna E. Arroyo