When I went to law school, I never imagined I would practice estate planning.
I didn’t grow up wealthy.
In fact, we were the “poor” family among the wealthy Jewish families in Miami. And, I kind of resented their wealth when it seemed we had so much less.
I went to law school to serve the underdog, to make a real difference in people’s lives, not to help the rich get richer. And, I hated math, so I was super surprised to find myself later considering an area of law that actually involves numbers.
In my last year of law school, I got married (on Valentine’s Day).
That March, just before graduating in May, I was pregnant.
And, I gave birth in Miami, Florida, on Nov. 2, 1999 (17 years ago today), while I was clerking for Judge Peter T. Fay on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
As I prepared for my daughter’s birth, I spent a lot of time on the computer, surfing the internet, reading everything I could about becoming a mom. Judge Fay was a Senior Judge with only half a case load, so it left me plenty of time to learn about impending motherhood.
That’s when I began to seriously consider estate planning.
You see, it began to dawn on me that estate planning wasn’t just for the wealthy. It was for people like me, mom’s, who wanted to make sure that no matter what my daughter would be taken care of by the people I wanted, and in the way I wanted.
So, when I moved to California to start my life as an associate attorney at Munger, Tolles, & Olson, I picked the tax and estate planning practice.
I figured that way I could work at a big law firm AND serve families, at the same time.
And, I created a Will and named guardians for my daughter in that Will.
One night, I was out to dinner with my husband, our daughter home with a babysitter, and it hit me … if we didn’t make it home, even though I had named guardians for Kaia in our Will, she would be taken out of our home and into the care of strangers.
You see, the people I named as guardians all lived in Miami, Florida (where I was from) and we were all the way in California. And the only family we had there, my sister-in-law, I would never want raising Kaia, so we hadn’t named her as a guardian.
Kaia was at home with a 16-year old babysitter. If something happened to us, that babysitter wouldn’t know what to do, where to find my Will, who to call, and the authorities would have no choice but to take Kaia into protective custody.
My heart might have stopped for a minute when I realized that. And, it hit me square between the eyes that every estate planning lawyer was overlooking this massive hole in planning for families with minor children.
This realization sent me on a quest to create a plan that would fill in the gaps.
And ultimately, even though I never imagined I would be a business owner (since I went to law school so I wouldn’t follow in my dad’s entrepreneurial footsteps), I ended up starting my own practice serving families in my own local community.
Because the reality was that working for a big law firm, there was simply too much focus on saving taxes and not enough focus on protecting kids and families.
So, I went out on my own. The same year my son, Noah, was born.
After practicing on my own for a few years and building a new law business model focused on serving families in a new way, I decided that I had to get the word out to parents in a much bigger way.
Lawyers all across the world were putting in place estate plans for families, but were leaving big holes in those plans when it came to ensuring their minor children would be properly cared for, if anything happened to them.
And, there were so many families that would never make it into my office for planning, due to cost, or distance.
Out of that was born the Kids Protection Plan (a site where parents can name legal guardians for their kids for free, purchase a complete Kids Protection Planning Kit, and get their documents reviewed by a lawyer).
Then, I wrote the book, “Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly — and Essential — Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents.” (If you haven’t read it yet, you can get a free copy here.)
It was because of my daughter, and later my son, that I created all of this. And it’s because of them that I decided to start educating the world about it, and training other lawyers on the right way to plan for families.
It was because of them that I realized that estate planning is way more than just a set of documents to hopefully keep a family out of court or pass on financial assets after someone dies.
It is because of them that I keep coming back to a renewed discovery about how much more we can offer the families in our communities who are struggling to raise toddlers, and teenagers, and talk to their kids about money, and prepare their kids for life.
It is because of them that I want to make sure that what I leave behind is not just money, but legacy, meaning and preparedness for a world that will be different than the one we live in now.
Without them, maybe I’d be a litigator, practicing law the traditional way, working my ass off, with no control over my schedule and wondering why being a lawyer seems so unfulfilling.
So, on this day of my daughter’s 17th birthday, the anniversary of me becoming a mom, I say thank you to my children for teaching me, guiding me, and inspiring me to use my law degree to make a real difference in the world.
And with that, I invite you to do the same. Learn how you can become the kind of lawyer who does right by the families in your community.
Whether you’ve been doing estate planning for years, or you are just starting out in practice, or you are ready to add on a service for the families you already serve in another practice area, I invite you to learn a new way.
And, if you have not yet named legal guardians for your own kids, outside of your Will, I invite you to use our online site where you can do it yourself and check out our Kids Protection Planning Kit.
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