Despite the fact we spend our days addressing everyone’s favorite subjects, death and taxes, estate planning is a fascinating career. At work, two days are never the same. I spend a good portion of my day helping families during an extremely vulnerable time: after the loss of a loved one. We have helped retrieve a body from Iran (a country with which the U.S. has no diplomatic relations) and explained to a client her deceased husband had an extra $3 million he had neglected to inform her about all in the same day. Each day that I face these and other new and challenging situations, I am forever grateful that our firm is members of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.
The AAEPA is a national organization dedicated to assisting estate planning attorneys via educational programs, marketing strategies, practice management resources, and much more. As part of the AAEPA, members are required to complete thirty-six hours of continuing education each year (compared to the State of California, which only requires twenty-five every three years). To help members achieve this goal, the AAEPA holds two summits annually. And believe it or not, I enjoy three days locked in a room full of other estate planning attorneys sharing their stories.
We have just returned from the fall summit and feel inspired to focus on our clients and providing them with the best legal services possible. The summit educated us on proposed estate tax law reforms at the federal and state level. While it may not seem important to understand various states estate tax laws, if a client dies owning property in another state, it may be subject to estate tax laws in that state. And while a new law seems unlikely in this election year, I am armed with the tools to assist my clients in preparing for an uncertain and confusing future. We also heard heart-wrenching stories about families leaving their great-aunt at the morgue because no one wanted to use their share of the inheritance to pay for her burial, which triggered a discussion about funeral trusts to provide the funds necessary to pay for one’s funeral.
This year the summit also focused on practice building with an emphasis on technology. We learned about providing clients with a portal to access their personal documents, their estate plans and health care directives, via the internet. This portal would allow information to easily flow between the law firm and our clients, while keeping everyone’s personal documents safe and secure. Since being back to the office, we have already begun discussing this idea and hope to provide it to our clients in the future.
Whether I use the AAEPA to provide a client’s mother with an attorney in another state or to assist me in solving a client’s tax issue, the AAEPA has proven to be an invaluable resource for me, and most importantly, for my clients.